When big news gets personal

The evolution of Facebook Live
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Story highlights

  • Frida Ghitis: after violence in Turkey, Baghdad, Dallas and elsewhere, the horror gets personal
  • In our era of social media, we now see the 'human beings in the headlines,' she says

Frida Ghitis is a world affairs columnist for The Miami Herald and World Politics Review, and a former CNN producer and correspondent. Follow her @FridaGhitis. The opinions expressed in this commentary are hers.

(CNN)What was the biggest news event of the week? What was the most important, consequential, significant event of the past seven days, the one that will have repercussions; what will resonate, make its place in the history books?

My guess is that you know the answer and you reached it quickly. And for a moment at least, the very thought of it filled you with anger. You knew immediately what it was. But I also guess that if you polled everyone you know, your choice will not be the same as everyone else's.
    Did you select the brutal murder of five Dallas police officers on Thursday night -- a horrific attack that produced the worst death toll for law enforcement in the United States since 9/11?
    Frida Ghitis
    Or, is the most significant development the shocking killing of two black men by police in separate incidents in Louisiana and Minnesota in the days before, the same killings that demonstrators were protesting against in Dallas and around the country when the sharpshooter aimed his fire at police?
    Or, maybe you think this is all a temporary bit of news, and view this week's developments regarding Hillary Clinton as the most important story? Do you consider the FBI's decision not to indict the all-but-certain Democratic presidential candidate as a travesty? Or maybe you're in the opposite camp, and think the outrage there are the never-ending investigations involving Clinton. Maybe you think the Benghazi probe, the email server case, and the congressional hearing on the topic with FBI Director James Comey will be the events that future generations will study from these turbulent seven days.
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    Perhaps your thoughts are more on the other party's candidate. Do you think that after the smoke clears and we return to originally scheduled programming we will find that the most urgent, most consequential news is what happened with Trump? That could include a stunning confrontation with Republican critics, and the six-pointed star controversy he puzzlingly chooses to keep alive; it could also include his acknowledgment that if he wins the presidency he may not serve?
    Or, are your eyes focused overseas, on the astonishing explosion of violence perpetrated or strongly suspected of being committed by ISIS and its followers as the Muslim holy month of Ramadan came to an end? The outbreak of terrorism looks like the start of a new and dangerous phase in the so-called Islamic State's murderous campaign: Nearly 300 killed in Baghdad, the worst death toll in years; a triple attack in Saudi Arabia, including an unprecedented strike on Islam's second holiest city, Medina, coming after mass murder in Bangladesh, Istanbul, Orlando and elsewhere. And now reports from local authorities that attacks in Tel Aviv and in Malaysia were also ISIS-related.
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    Is there really more happening in the world these days, or are we simply hearing more about it? There is no question that we are living in a time of ferment, a time of political and social change at home and abroad. Much is, in fact, happening. But that's not the whole story. Some of the very forces that are creating that change are also transforming the way we receive and are affected by what occurs.
    We are living inside a tornado of news. We are being slammed by a barrage of local, national and world events that assault our senses. Sometimes it's one after the other, with little respite. At other times, like this past week, the news comes in unstoppable torrents. But we are not simply receiving information, not just data and facts; the news wraps us in a swirl of emotions, it reaches us through unaccustomed senses.
    It wasn't very long ago that everyone in the news business knew the summer was the slow time, but quiet summers are now in the past. We are living in a different world.
    The news is not something we consume reading the paper with our morning coffee or watching evening television in our living rooms. Some of the social and political transformations that have helped trigger these world events -- that make the world seem fast-changing, threatening and unpredictable to some -- also shape the way the news affects us.
    Today, the news becomes palpable. We all spend part of our days looking at our social media feeds, seeing images, hearing reactions, listening to the voices of the people most directly affected by world events, with complex algorithms that magnify their power. The more interested we and our friends become in an event, the more comments and information we receive; the more intensely we feel, the more personal it becomes.
    Consider what you may have seen shared on social media this past week
    How can you not feel personally shaken, deeply incensed, watching the chilling video live-streamed by Diamond Reynolds after a policeman shot and killed her boyfriend, Philando Castile? "Please, Jesus, don't tell me he's gone," she says. "Please, officer, don't tell me you just did this to him." This is more than a news story. It is a tragedy that touches all of us, as it surely must.
    Then there is the horrifying video of 37-year-old Alton Sterling, in Baton Rouge, pinned to the ground, an officer repeatedly firing into him at the closest possible range.
    And the breathtaking images from Dallas -- so unreal they seem like a movie, but they're unfolding on a city street in America, all so shocking and sad that a former NYPD officer could hardly hold back tears talking about it.
    It's all there: live, online, available to watch over and over, available to discuss, to stir our emotions time and time again.
    And then the raw emotions are steered in specific directions, tinting the events with political agendas. Consider the Twitter message from former U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh, a tea party activist. After the Dallas police officers were killed, he posted, "This is now war. Watch out Obama. Watch black lives matter punks. Real America is coming after you." He deleted the message, although it lives on, of course, as everything does in the digital world.
    Fortunately, so do the more positive messages reminding us of our shared humanity, urging co-existence. When Dallas Police Chief David Brown called for this day not to be like all others, when he said it's time to do things differently, more people heard him.
    Whatever you view as the most important news story of this heartbreaking week, there is a strong chance that you feel it is personal to you. That is one positive aspect of this new interconnected reality. We now see the human beings in the headlines. We see that it's real life.