Why Twitter Dominates in Breaking the News
January 12, 2010 – A massive, strong earthquake devastates Haiti. The rest of the world moved on, busy with their own lives. Seven minutes after the quake, Frederic Dupoux (@FredoDupoux) tweets, “Oh shiet [sic] heavy earthquake right now! In Haiti!” The world suffered a quaking realization due to this tweet. Minutes later, more tweets came about the devastation the earthquake has brought to their lives. Twitpics abound showing images of terrible destruction and woe as survivors stare shell-shocked while some run around looking for loved ones who might have survived the quake somehow.
These tweets prompted worldwide action as all news groups, especially the big organizations struggled to get the latest events to tell the rest of the world what really happened and what’s occurring in Haiti. Due to the news vacuum that occurred, CNN and other news giants relied on the tweets coming from Haitians to convey what’s happening in Haiti to the world.
This tragedy not only uncovered the good side of the human spirit, but also the effectiveness of Twitter when it comes to ‘breaking the news’ faster than the big reporters can. With Twitter’s 140-character tweet limit, users are forced to make their posts concise and meaningful. Brevity and wit is more important with Twitter than any rambling account that will just make the reporters lose the thread of what they really want to say.
Twitter’s advantage over traditional news rests on its speed in letting everybody know about an unfolding situation. News about Osama bin Laden’s death broke out when Brian Stelter, New York Times reporter retweeted a post from an aide to the former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, saying “So I’m told by a reputable person they have killed Osama Bin (sic) Laden. Hot damn.” Twitter users who read this tweet is informed first before the official statement from the White House came out. This demonstrates Twitter’s potential to become a strong online hub for news.
With Twitter, new grounds are broken in journalistic reporting in which real-time accounts of events are written, giving those events a fresh and urgent appeal that is lacking in news reported later after the incident. Tweets can convey raw, true-to-life and emotion-gripping stories in 140 characters or less. Professional reporting somehow lessens the importance of the situation with its matter-of-fact recitation of what happened, whether it’s a Fourth of July celebration or a National Day of Mourning.