The death of talented actor Heath Ledger today at the age of 28 is a tragedy. No bones about it. Hollywood lost a bright star and a baby lost a father. What floors me almost as much as the news of the death itself is how the news broke.
Per the horrified cry that went up around my office, CNN and the local New York news picked it up around 4:30. After joining in the chorus of gasps and “WHAT?!”s, I went immediately to the Internet. I hit the Google news search, I hit CNN.com, and there was nothing. Within two hits of the ‘Refresh’ button, that changed. LiveJournal was the same way. I looked at a friend’s affiliated journals or “friends list” and there were maybe two posts reporting Heath Ledger had died. I refreshed and it was like the fall of dominoes…post after post after post. It was if kids had passed “Heath Ledger is dead” down the line in a game of telephone only not a single one garbled the phrase.
That is the power of the Internet: transmitting news in seconds…uniting a fandom in mourning where once only the family and friends of the deceased would have known so quickly. A private matter becomes a public one with just a few bits of HTML code and a picture.
It hasn’t even been 200 years since Samuel Morse tapped “What hath God wrought?” out on the telegraph.