Social media sites aid in identification of West African woman in Toronto

Fatoumata Diallo, 61, Toronto Star

Around noon on Friday, a disoriented woman walked into the Bala Avenue Community School in North York, Toronto. She had no identification, and was unable to speak English. Toronto Police Service issued a news release, and The Toronto Star published an article online with a photograph of the woman, urging readers to contact police if they recognized her. In efforts to assist with the investigation, many readers posted links to the article on Facebook and Twitter. The woman, who only spoke Fulah, a West African tongue, was estimated to be 70 years old.

Around midnight on Friday, police issued a second news release identifying the woman as 61-year old Fatoumata Diallo. They announced that she had been reunited with her family, and thanked the public for their help in identifying her.

In this new era of Web 2.0, police are able to utilize social media sites not only to help catch murderers and find criminals, but also to find missing people and connect them with their loved ones.

Sources: Toronto Star, Toronto Police Service

Lady Gaga gives birth to the next Justin Bieber

Lady Gaga performed last night at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, one of the many stops of her Monster Ball Tour.  Though she was an hour and a half late, it goes without saying that her concert entertained and enthralled audience members. But for once, it wasn’t her latex clothing, lewd dance moves, or lack of pants that stole the show. Instead, it was a 10-year-old Filipina-Canadian girl from Winnipeg, Man.

Just a month ago, Maria Aragorn was like any other Canadian pre-teen who adored Lady Gaga and had a passion for singing. She performed a cover of Gaga’s “Born This Way,” and on February 16th,  her sister posted it on Youtube. (see below) The video caught Gaga’s attention (sound familiar?), and she retweeted the video link to her Twitter followers.  Over the next week, Aragorn became a Youtube sensation, with more than 17 million views of her video. She was even invited on the Ellen DeGeneres Show and Good Morning America.

Last night,  Aragorn joined Lady Gaga on stage for a piano duet of “Born this Way.” (see below) Dressed in black pants, a pink hoodie and a white hat, Aragorn sat in the lap of Gaga, who by contrast was clad in what appeared to be a sequined bra and panties. Gaga had tears in her eyes when Aragorn thanked the audience, and referred to her young prodige as “Lady Maria.”

Gaga might have been genuinely touched by Aragorn’s performance. She also might have just seen Never Say Never, and decided to take a page out of Usher’s book. Perhaps this time next year Lady Maria will be known as “The Filipina Fame Monster,” and will have hit singles, a world tour and a 3D movie under her belt too.

*Sources: National Post, Entertainment Weekly, Youtube

The Crisis in Egypt: Web users worldwide rely on the internet for news

BBC Tweets; Feb. 5, 2011

“Reuters: President Hosni Mubarak resigns as head of Egypt’s ruling party”, tweeted BBC World at noon on Saturday morning, marking the 12th day of protests in Egypt.

 Less than fifteen minutes later, a full report was filed on BBC’s website, stating that “The politburo of Egypt’s ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) has resigned en masse, in an apparent response to anti-government protests.” These updates were immediately accessible to twitter users and online readers all over the world, who have been fervently following the events in politically unstable Egypt as they unfold.

“The youth have been mobilized through social media,” says Najaat*, an Egyptian activist living in Dubai. “It has created awareness of what is really going on in Egypt, as opposed to what the state run TV news is falsely reporting.”

No longer does one have to wait for the morning paper to be informed of current events. But internet journalism brings with it amateur reporting, open bias and a lack of credibility.  “Unfortunately news sites covering the crisis seemed to have their own political and personal agendas,” says Nancy Allam, an Egyptian international student studying at The University of Toronto.

The expansion and advancement of journalism can thus lead readers into the infinite realm of weblogs and social media.

“Society doesn’t need newspapers. What we need is journalism,” claims Clay Shirky.

Print journalism may be at the end of its days, but as technology grows and expands, it seems that we may have to surrender the rigid, supervised news room for the erratic world of web reporting.

*Najaat’s last name was not used because she and her family members are activists and are hiding from authorities.