Thursday, November 27, 2008

Twitter is emerging as a major force in breaking news!

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...Image by via CrunchBaseUpdate 28/11/08 22:22
I have been following the devastating attacks in Mumbai (formerly Bombay) in India and the situation remains extremely volatile. We are reminded again that the fight against international terrorism is a fight to defend the values we hold and the price we have to pay of living in open, democratic, liberal societies.

The gunmen sought anyone with British or American passports with the violence widespread throughout the area and many casualities. The minute news broke of the terrorist attacks, social media sites like Twitter, Flickr and blogs proved to be valuable sources of information. Twitter is emerging as a major force in breaking news with CNN even acknowledging the value -
It was the day social media appeared to come of age and signaled itself as a news gathering force to be reckoned with

With more than 6 million members worldwide, an estimated 80 messages, or "tweets," were being sent to via SMS every five seconds, providing eyewitness accounts and updates.

Many Twitter users also sent pleas for blood donors to make their way to specific hospitals in Mumbai where doctors were faced with low stocks and rising casualties
Twitter is a source of journalism and it's long overdue that mainstream publications give credit to social media sites - like Twitter - for breaking news during times of crisis. I don't follow the web interface of Twitter instead I choose to use a Desktop client in Twhirl for updates. This meant that the events in Mumbai were brought to my attention via Friendfeed which compliments Twitter by importing updates. Instinctively I switched the channel on the television to Sky News but returned to the Internet to follow events in 'real-time'.

Including hashtags (for example #Mumbai) enhances the visibility of messages, otherwise, your efforts might only be visible to the people who already follow you [Source]. Obviously a degree of skepticism is required but any misinformation will soon be corrected. Unverified messages do circulate on Twitter but likewise for mainstream publications most recently with the Steve Jobs story that circulated. Michael Arrington (Tech Crunch) provides a good summary -
What matters isn’t any individual Twitter message and whether it’s right or wrong. It’s the organism as a whole, the aggregate, that lets people stream what they’re witnessing in real time to the world. That aggregate stream gives us more information, faster, than anything before. It’s news, and it’s incredibly valuable.
I agree with this statement although it's a disappointing that we reflect on the strength of social media sites at a time of tragedy. My thoughts and prayers are with the families affected and I hope that the situation reaches a conclusion without the need for further casualties.

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