Twitter community grows through Mumbai
I've spent a lot of time talking about Twitter lately... Heck, a lot of my posts have been about Twitter since I started this nerd blog. But I have to say, Twitter came into its own this week due to the tragedy in Mumbai. It's been a major focus since the attacks started Wednesday and many media outlets have noticed. CNN: "Tweeting the terror: How social media reacted to Mumbai" Forbes: "Mumbai: Twitter's Moment" Reuters: "Blogs feed information frenzy on Mumbai attacks" ABC News: "Social Media a Lifeline, Also a Threat?" CBS News: "Web a Reliable Resource in Mumbai Madness" France 24: "Citizen journalism offers intimate view of Mumbai attacks" The Guardian: "Twitter comes of age with fast reports from the ground in Mumbai" The Times of India: "Twittering & blogging about terror" New York Times: "Citizen Journalists Provided Glimpses of Mumbai Attacks"
It's fascinating to see how people flocked to share information onto Twitter and then watch how some of the more mainstream media tried to explain it. Amy Gahran (who is a consultant and works at Poynter) was kind to speak to a number of these media outlets to explain how information needs to be filtered. She tried to explain how social media is a news source and not an evil threat. Unfortunately, some outlets hear that call, others continue to play to the culture of fear. (Note the title of the ABC news article) She wrote a great piece for Poynter on how to be a responsible tweeter.
In reading the many articles online and watching the conversations on Twitter, I've come to a couple conclusions on why Twitter can be a wonderful news source for all of us to use during developing news. First, you can't understand or rely on information from Twitter without becoming a part of the Twitter community. It's very hard to trust or understand the information found on there unless you've been there long enough to build a community and a reliable chunk of people you follow. I knew about Sarah Palin's nomination hours before it went puplic. My husband thought I was crazy to bring it up. I knew about the earthquake in China and the kind of damage it was causing before there were full accounts on the international media outlets. I knew about developments of smaller stories across the country because I follow people I trust and I've spent enough time following them that I knew what they are experts in. If a mom blogger suddenly started tweeting with financial tips, I would question that information unless she happens to be a day trader and a mom blogger (it can happen).
Second, I consider Twitter like how I work with scanners in a newsroom. When there is scanner squawk during breaking news (such as the #Mumbai hashtag) often it's correct information... but you have to consider the source and confirm it. Twitter can be more reliable considering if you've been there a while you already know your sources, background and reliability. When there's breaking news, you can follow it through a hashtag but confirm and do follow up with the people you follow.