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Rex Sorgatz

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jan 9
2011

Did You Hear About The AZ Shooting Through Twitter

MG in TechCrunch: In The Age Of Realtime, Twitter Is Walter Cronkite. I have a quibble with this: I would like to take a poll and see -- how many people learned about the Arizona shooting through Twitter? My guess is a small percentage. I suspect that most people heard through breaking news alerts -- email, text, and apps. (After that, the second-most-common was probably word-of-mouth. And then probably tv and traditional news.)

Okay, you might say that alerts are part of the real-time web too, but that's Web 1.0. (Advice to all the new News 2.0 services: devise a strategy for notifications!) Twitter was full of hearsay (perhaps created by news orgs). However, Twitter was valuable in one regard: providing links to mainstream news outlets who were reporting on the story... in realtime.

21 comments

It just occurred to me that maybe we need to stop thinking about the "where were you when" moment in news. No one really cares about where you were when you first heard. The more important question might be: where did you go next?

posted by Rex at 1:31 PM on January 9, 2011

Rex, I do like you and I hate to be a pebble in your shoe.

I found out through Twitter. Honest.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I must have said about a million times from 2006-2008 that Twitter was a bad name for a pointless concept. I openly mocked everyone who got a huge phone bill for March 2007 because of SMS charges from Twitter use at SXSW. Obviously something changed about my attitude since then because I was continuously on Twitter from 9am yesterday through 3am. I posted around 40 tweets through the day. It must not be so bad after all.)

posted by BrianVan at 1:38 PM on January 9, 2011

Yes, I first heard about it in myTwitter stream
I find it a good resource
As you said it is just a linking mechanism to MSM
Which is what I use Twitter for anyway.

posted by ZuDfunck at 1:53 PM on January 9, 2011

I'm going to add that:

- My anecdotal story is not proof of a widespread phenomenon

- Twitter may actually be ahead of its time. It's optimized for use on mobile phones without advanced smartphone features. But it's also very usable on modern smartphone devices (moreso for feed browsing), and now those devices have huge market penetration. These devices are much closer to their users than the usual MSM channels could ever get. You carry it in your pocket all day... there's a much better chance you'd see breaking news on your smartphone than you'd run into a TV playing a cable news channel. (It also helps that Twitter now consistently "breaks" news faster than MSM by a few minutes) This is correlated to the general trend that smartphone applications are really taking off... because they're so CLOSE to the user. A dinky iPhone app nowadays seems like an idea with a lot more traction than a GREAT desktop app... even though great desktop apps deliver way more value to the user than slapdash mobile apps.

posted by BrianVan at 1:53 PM on January 9, 2011

When I moved to NYC -- three years ago -- I couldn't find a person who didn't tell me Twitter was stupid. I was roundly mocked for using it.

I remember when Heath Ledger died and Jess Coen said something about Denton having editors live-tweet it. I said, "brilliant!" It took me a while to realize that it wasn't real -- she was mocking the idea. Of course, that's exactly what would happen now.

I say this not to convey my genius prescience. I say it because I do think it's a problem in media circles. But:

While people in NYC Media seem to hate every new innovation the first time they see it, people in SF Tech circles seem to love every gizmo the first time they see it. Same problem, either way.

posted by Rex at 1:55 PM on January 9, 2011

I also first heard of the shooting via Twitter, then I turned on the television, surfed the channels and reported some of what I saw via Twitter.

After a while though, the repetitive television was too distracting, so I turned it off and exclusively followed Twitter links along with the Arizona media sites, while I monitored CNN.com's video feeds for the news conferences.

posted by Magister at 2:02 PM on January 9, 2011

I turned on the TV to watch "FOX News Watch" to discover it had been pre-empted. When Shephard Smith took over the coverage, I stopped channel flipping. I didn't get to the Internet for a couple hours, and by the time I did, everybody on Twitter was busy trying to score political points, so it was pretty much useless - and aggravating - to me.

Obviously I'm not in NYC, if that matters. I also think that if this had happened on a weekday, my answer probably would have been different.

posted by CRZ at 2:11 PM on January 9, 2011

Yes, I found out about the shooting by checking Twitter. It continues to be a valuable stream of information (almost all of it accurate).

On a related note, this video of Giffords talking about Sarah Palin and the Tea Party is fascinating in hindsight: http://gtcha.me/gA6OJV

posted by Matt at 2:19 PM on January 9, 2011

I was traveling back from London and checked into the Huffington Post on my phone when I saw it several hours after the fact. I'm not following my Twitter steam on my phone anymore, but do follow the Facebook stream which is likely where I would have heard about it next.

posted by Patty at 3:05 PM on January 9, 2011

I heard about it when a friend texted me, as he often does when major strange stuff happens. If I had been home, I probably would've spotted it online pretty soon after it happened. That said, there have been several cases in the last year or so where I learned about breaking news through "trending topics" on Twitter. (For instance, the other day I learned through this method that Omarion outed himself.)

I don't use Twitter to follow breaking news once I've heard about it, though. I use the Times' and CNN's sites for that.

posted by adm at 3:11 PM on January 9, 2011

I found out, and followed the story, through Twitter and links posted there.

posted by Nick Bergus at 3:30 PM on January 9, 2011

not twitter, probably reddit

posted by rmc at 5:05 PM on January 9, 2011

Via Brizzly's trend explainer sidebar, then to NYT.

posted by josh at 7:28 PM on January 9, 2011

Not through twitter, but I'm not a regular checker. Online news source.

posted by david at 8:19 PM on January 9, 2011

Found out via an old web 1.0 breaking news email from my local paper.

posted by guy at 9:42 PM on January 9, 2011

Twitter will die a death in 2011, mark my words ;)

posted by steveb at 9:43 PM on January 9, 2011

Twitter!! Was working at my desk and the Tweets started popping up. Breaking news which, honestly, I kind of ignored at first. Then I saw a RT (re-Tweet) of someone saying Fox News was covering the story and CNN was not. #CNNFail That's when I got up and went to the television. I kept up with Twitter on my blackberry and it continued to be the source of the most news and often before I heard reports on television. Afterall, with TV you can only watch one channel at a time. A person can only say one thing at a time. On Twitter it's a tidal wave.

Another thing that was important to me was to see what my community had to say about the story and to be able to be "together" as the horrible news unfolded. It was powerful watching as the feed started with only a few tweets on the topic, then everyone talking about it and then people getting back to their normal conversation over the course of the following few hours.

Twitter really is where you can be in the middle of what is going on in the world real time, all the time.

posted by Kianga Ellis at 10:07 PM on January 9, 2011

People inclined to read online articles about where they first hear about news events... hear it first on Twitter.

I would argue that MOST people heard about it on radio news updates, or from a friend, or from the TV news. The second largest group heard from Facebook. The third from e-mail/text updates. And the fourth from Twitter.

posted by Jason DeRusha at 10:17 PM on January 9, 2011

Patton Oswalt's twitter, no less

posted by LS at 11:55 PM on January 9, 2011

Yep. Twitter.

posted by andy at 8:31 PM on January 10, 2011

Google news, my home page. Then straight to twitter.

posted by CC at 3:11 AM on January 11, 2011




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