Twitter and Breaking News

21 Mar

What I find most baffling about this case is that the BBC and RTE stories are almost completely factually different. One says 47 people were injured, the other says 64. One says one person was killed, the other says two. If I were trying to follow this story as it was happening and discern what exactly was going on, I would be clueless.

It seems that one organization has tried to check facts as best it can with officials, and one has simply relied on Twitter followers to share what they think they know about the situation.

@BBCBreakingNews was using Twitter to crowdsource for information pertaining to the incident. Because the information about the grenade-throwing appeared after a tweet was posted asking for followers to share what they know, it is reasonable to assume the BBC Twitter got many responses and put them together, resulting in a vague tweet about explosives being thrown with at least one person dead. It is unclear how or if the people in charge of the BBC Twitter checked out the claims made by their followers with sources beyond media. However, that does not seem to matter to the number of people who retweeted the initial post immediately, seeming to not question the legitimacy of the claim.

RTE seems to have made an attempt to verify the claims, citing police as sources in its article. The article published at the BBC cites only witnesses, media and TV images.

I think that because BBC is a widely known, well-respected news source, people are less likely to question the legitimacy of the information it puts out, even if it does not cite official sources. While crowdsourcing can be a useful tool in breaking-news situations, it cannot always be relied upon for accurate information. What it is best used for, I think, is getting a quick, rough picture of a situation before official reports come in.

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One Response to “Twitter and Breaking News”

  1. Ronald R. Rodgers March 21, 2012 at 7:40 pm #

    What it is best used for, I think, is getting a quick, rough picture of a situation before official reports come in. GOOD POINT – BUT IF DONE DEFTLY IT CAN BE MORE THAN THAT – BUT CERTAINLY IT IS A BREAKING NEWS TOOL

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