To bear witness in the 4th Precinct

The day may yet come when the need for a healthy news media is eclipsed by the technology that makes them irrelevant. But last night’s assault on protesters by the Minneapolis Police Department showed we’re not there yet, not nearly so.

Twitter proved again last night that it — not radio, not TV, not newspapers, not blogs — is the most effective medium for covering the reality of events on our streets.

And it’s true that a smartphone and a pair of eyes can make anyone a journalist, able to tell their story as they see fit.

But it’s difficult to sort out the spin. That much was made clear by this tweet last night from the Minneapolis Police Department, which, like its enemy in the street, attempted to control the story in a tug-of-war on Twitter. But you can’t tell a story from somewhere else.

Journalists, some of whom were maced by police, immediately offered a confirmation that the police were at least partially responsible, a confirmation that the MPD eventually acknowledged.

Protesters tweeted, too, that they weren’t provoking the cops. But some were. Journalists’ tweets showed some throwing rocks.

KARE 11’s Ben Garvin was one of those with a seat at the Twitter fight for the soul of the narrative.

By mid-evening a small army of reporters reliably told the whole story, armed with their smartphones and their most potent weapon: trust.

There is value, of course, to the social media of participants, who now have the freedom to raise voices previously muzzled.

But it has not yet eclipsed — not nearly so — the value of a courageous storyteller.