The Gateway Journalism Review looks back at the lasting impact of the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., on Aug. 9, 2014. The Review’s package of stories concludes that Ferguson was America’s Arab Spring moment, spawning a new civil rights movement and stoking a national debate about race, privilege and the American character. A social media tsunami of 35 million tweets dominated the media narrative and public debate about the killing of Brown. No previous event in American history had led to that kind of outpouring of righteous anger and social media connection.
It was the incubator of a new generation of civil rights activists, among them DeRay Mckesson, Brittany Packnett, and Johnetta Elzie. Black Lives Matter burgeoned into the new face of the civil rights movement. Questionable police shootings that once didn’t make the front page of a local newspaper now are national news within hours of the posting of a new viral video from Baton Rouge or St. Paul or Cleveland or North Charleston or St. Louis. Social media leads, and the legacy media often follows. Events that once took days and weeks to digest flash by in a Twitter instant faster than the eyes can read and far faster than the national consciousness can comprehend.