Tweeting Tragedies

As 9/11 came and went this year, I couldn’t help but think about how news coverage has changed in a time of crisis since. Watching a clip of the 9/11 coverage and all the uncertainty surrounding when the first plane hit, it made me really consider what the role of Twitter would have played in this situation.

Consider the role Twitter and social media in general is playing now in news media. These instant-updates certain sites provide have now been utilized to provide up-to-date information via short messages or photos, and a growing amount of journalists have been considering Twitter as a legitimate news source. Last November, a Facebook status update was even the saving grace for a 19 year old convicted of robbery. His status (that he was eating at an IHOP) helped him confirm his alibi. Link

In March of this year, a large earthquake hit San Diego. I happened to be there at my house with my parents to experience this fairly traumatic event. As the quake happened, I had an almost automatic response to utilize my multimedia resources and contact people close to me to inform them what was going on. I text-messaged several people dear to me, and I tweeted to my followers about the event at hand. Even mere minutes later, this proved to be useful in two ways. First, from a familial perspective, friends I was away from (almost all were attending school in the midwest) that caught news of the quake were immediately able to reference my Twitter to read if I did in fact experience the quake, and to ensure my safety. Second, news channels were able to use and observe the thousands of commentators that experienced the incident in a very user-friendly, extremely convenient setting. Reporters read Tweets and blog comments from users participating in helping to define the incident and the damages surrounding their communities. Within minutes of the quake, a news site was able to find a YouTube video with footage of their house during the incident.

I could go on, but the point is that watching coverage of the quake and utilizing social media during the incident provided a much more in-depth experience. It was a real, uncensored depiction.

If Twitter and Facebook status existed in 2001 and were used as frequently as in modern America, would we remember 9/11 differently? To be continued.

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One Response to “Tweeting Tragedies”

  1. I’ve often considered the role that social media can play in reporting of the news. And like you, I have noticed a few recent instances where tweets were used as part of reporting current events (see below). However, I have wondered how news organizations go about confirming the tweets especially the sources (unless it is from a well-known, public figure but even then systems can be hacked or those individuals can be impersonated). I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on this.

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