Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Twitter: Breaking (the) News

Circle this date on your calendars: July 29, 2008. On this date, Southern California (the Greater Los Angeles area) experienced a strong 5.4 earthquake, as reported by the US Geological Survey (USGS). But another news source, more notoriously known for its stability issues and pop culture icon Fail Whale, proved equally valuable: Twitter.

While USGS seismologists provided the world with technical data, for Web users, the first mention of an earthquake was made known by Southern California Twitter users living in and around the Los Angeles area who sent tweets detailing the rattling and rumbling, fears and concerns and reassurances that all were shaken, scared but safe, and countless other tweets from people around the world sending their thoughts and prayers.

A Twitter user named Zadi, who I follow, was the first person on my list to mention the earthquake.

The earthquake story was delivered by the people on the ground even before local news station reporters and editors had time to organize and file a report. Social networking news website Mashable went as far as to claim that, in spite of a flood of raw unedited tweets, it still scooped CNN and local news networks.

Is this the end of the old news? Has the old news been usurped by the new news? Of course not. But this story and this event do reveal the power of Twitter (and other micro-blogging websites) to break news and highlight the human element more clearly, intimately and directly than before.

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about the author

I am an information professional, researcher, and writer with over eight years experience in the information services field with experience in information and communication technology.

I have a B.A. in History and a Master's in Library and Information Studies and working on a Web and Multimedia Design certificate.

I believe that empowering people with information can enrich lives and transform the world.