I was just thinking that it's been awhile since I saw a news story that had people talking about how it had legitimized the Internet as a news medium. For years it seemed that every big story stirred that kind of talk. Two early ones that come to mind are the 1997 Heaven's Gate cult suicide (at the Star Tribune we copied the entire Heaven's Gate website as part of online news coverage) and the 1998 Starr report (hundreds of thousands of people downloaded the full text).
Perhaps that talk was blown away by Hurricane Katrina, which is the last time I recall hearing it. The Times-Picayune's use of the Web after its offices and presses were flooded was cited as one such transition point, although it was by no means the first such case. Grand Forks, ND, was devastated by flood and fire in 1997, and local media made extensive use of the Web, including lists and forums to help people contact families and friends scattered by the disaster.
What brought all this to mind is Erik Larson's latest book, Thunderstruck, in which he simultaneously traces the history of Guglielmo Marconi's invention of radio (wireless telegraphy) and the sensational murder drama of Hawley Harvey Crippen. The American-born doctor killed and dismembered his wife in their north London home in 1910. Eventually Scotland Yard tracked him down and arrested him on a steamer approaching Canada.
In Larson's analysis, the gushing press coverage of how the new Marconi wireless technology helped police find Crippen and his girlfriend as they fled to America saved Marconi's struggling company ... and legitimized the technology.
Anyone working in "new media" today will recognize Marconi's struggles. The book is not as compelling as Larson's previous dual-plot murder tale, The Devil in the White City, but it's a good read and well worth the time.