Saturday, November 15, 2008

How Twitter can deliver news

Posted by Craig on 11/15/2008
You don't need to be a journalist to be a part of the news gathering and news dissemination process on Twitter.

In the past 30 minutes alone, the Web site has recorded dozens of Twitter posts with "#lafire" on them. Basically, chronicles the most popular topics being discussed on Twitter by analyzing these user-provided tags. #lafire took off in popularity as a tag within the last 24 hours. It of course refers to fires around Los Angeles.

In the last few minutes, here's what members of the LA community have been bouncing back and forth on Twitter:

"Want to help if you aren't close? Donate to Red Cross who assists fire victims with shelter, food, necessities."
"RT: rachellechong: #LAFIRE Animals may be taken to Pierce College or Hansen Dam during fire emergency"
"Watching the fires break out all around L.A.. Mess. Major. Chaos. Sky is red. #LAFIRE if you're into disaster theater."
"on 91 freeway, people turning around and exiting on onramp to get off fwy. #lafire anaheim hills"
"Three major fires surround LA at this time #lafire Anaheim Hills, Sylmar, Yorba Linda"

They're almost like mini stories. And more are popping up every second. Both by people trying to get information out, public officials for instance, and everyday citizens just posting their thoughts, opinions, and observations.

Thus, Twitter becomes a powerful tool in times of crisis or major news. Users quickly catch on to the popular Hashtag being used, and they put it in their tweets to be part of the conversation.

While there is no gate-keeping and there's obvious issues with the potential for rumors or misinformation being distributed, it's still a powerful device if used correctly, and the journalism industry as a whole could learn a lot from monitoring the takeoff of one of these popular hashtags, such as the one that's growing in popularity as I write this: #lafire. Talk about a whole new meaning to "breaking news"...something like this keeps breaking and updating every few minutes - in some cases, like when the VP Debate between Palin and Biden took place, every few seconds.

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