#Mumbai – Debating Twitter’s Breaking News Role

The age old (at least during this decade) new media question: is citizen journalism journalism?

Tom’s Tech Blog decries Twitter as an unreliable news source, and therefore not a news source, receives backlash from prominent bloggers:

Yes, Twitter is a Source of Journalism – Mathew Ingram

I Can’t Believe Some People are still Saying Twitter isn’t a News Source – Michael Arrington, Techcrunch

(Why is Twitter Unreliable?) The facts are often wrong.

This is the same argument that mainstream journalists used against blogs when they rose to fill a void in the news over the last few years. Yet even the NY Times admitted years ago that blogs were an important news source when disaster struck: “For vivid reporting from the enormous zone of tsunami disaster, it was hard to beat the blogs.”

But blogs are nothing compared to Twitter, which lets anyone with a cell phone instantly update the world with what they see and hear, via the simple and ubiquitous text message.

Sure, lots of Twitter messages are flat out wrong and can spread disinformation. But as Ingram notes in his blog post above, other people tend to immediately correct those errors. Bad information is quickly drowned out by good information.

CNN provides examples for both sides of the argument with Tweeting the Terror – How Social Media Reacted to Mumbai – remarkable Tweets emanating from the battlefront as well as wayward rumors and noise that questions Twitter information credibility.

Mumbai Attack Aftermath, Detailed Tweet by Tweet – Wired Blog

The simple conclusion is the fact that all citizen journalism – Twitter, cell phone conversations and pictures, Flickr – potentially contribute to the illumination of breaking news. The responders are the first on scene, minutes to hours before the mass media reporters, and news credibility simply requires filtering by both other citizens on scene and the trained media. There’s really no argument here.

About Pat Kitano

Patrick Kitano works with brands in developing hyperlocal engagement solutions and is administrator of the Breaking News Network, a national hyperlocal network devoted to community service. He is the author of The Local Network on Street Fight, and is reachable via Twitter @pkitano and email pkitano@gmail.com.

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