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Fast, overwhelming, decisive: It’s a case study in how tightly connected 21st-century media can whip a story into a full-on tsunami, with startling consequences for individual careers and national policy.

“Rolling Stone broke the story, but it was Twitter that got the story rolling,” says Aram Sinnreich, a media professor at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J. “The peer-produced social media are doing to cable-news networks what cable news did to broadcast. We’ve gone from the one-day news cycle to every hour on the hour to second by second.”

Noah Shachtman, a nonresident fellow at the Brookings Institution and a blogger at Wired magazine, says: “The fact so many of us are networked together enabled the information to spread speed-of-light fast. That turned what might have been a slower-burning flame into an instant conflagration.”

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