The last week has been absolutely crazy – especially for the city of Boston, with a bombing, shootings and the insane 24 hours that has just happened trying to piece it all together. Through the whole time this happened, I didn’t open a news site once, nor did I turn on the TV to see what was happening – I stuck to my twitter feed.
Twitter, by nature is fast and more immediate than writing a news post on a website, posting on Facebook or getting something breaking to come up on TV, and the manhunt last night is one of the greatest examples I have seen of this – the event was getting faster and heating up at an unbelievable pace and Twitter had me informed of every detail as it happened. TV had no chance on keeping up.
Of course, Twitter is as reliable as the people you follow – if you follow a bunch of conspiracy theorists or even just social users you are probably just going to be on the end of a big game of Chinese whispers. But, most big time journalists use Twitter, and with events like what has been happening in Boston they use it to relay news as they get hold of it and usually try and get some verification of its credibility before starting some big rumours.
This use of social media as a news source even worried police so much that they asked journalists to stop reporting the things they were hearing from radio scanners as they were afraid that the suspects may have had access to social media and therefore be able to find out the polices plans and actions.
Twitter’s fast nature of immediate posts makes it the perfect medium for detailing news in real-time as it happens and with new services like Vine, it even allows short videos to be shared in real-time for people to get a visual experience with what is happening. Twitter’s way of delivering news also eliminates some of the time filling crap that you see on TV news, there’s no reporter repeating information 5 times in front some building with winds gusting around them but instead you can get a constant flow of information from a wide range of sources.
Many people use Twitter for news in a way that they follow these news organisations and if a tweet pops out that they want more information about they can read what people are replying to it or click on an article link if the tweet has one. In fact, The center’s State of the Media 2012 report found in its survey that 27% of links that were opened from Twitter come from News organisations.
Twitter’s biggest issue as I briefly mentioned above is its credibility. As people rush to trying be the first to break news, details can be missed and completely false information can go viral in minutes which has happened with major events in the past like when the UK’s Sky News shared a picture of a sunrise from Mars attributed to the Curiosity, but actually was the work of a previous rover.
Above all, Twitter is what you make of it, and it can be a dangerous ground for people looking for breaking news because there’s no line between what is real and what’s not. But when it is working properly and credible journalists are posting credible information it becomes the best place to get news as it happens.
This image comes from Mashable and it shows some interest statistics on how people use social networks to get news.