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China earthquake: Twitter didn't 'beat' the media - it was quicker

China earthquake: Twitter didn't 'beat' the media - it was quicker

There have been a few stories, following the earthquake in China, about how Twitter broke the news before mainstream media.

The AFP's story, particularly, is titled "'Twitters' beat media in reporting China earthquake."

But this success can be misleading: this does not mean Twitter reports were of higher quality than traditional media, and Twitter shouldn't be seen as competing with traditional media.

Twitter reported the news first and live, "in what was being touted Tuesday as micro-blogging outshining mainstream news," wrote the AFP.

According to ReadWriteWeb, this was also the case earlier this year for the earthquake in the UK and the earthquake in China in March.

Twitter has now solidly established itself as a must-use tool for online journalists. Simply look at how the Evening Leader in the UK used Twitter to cover local elections and soccer games live, and its potential for continuous online coverage is obvious.

However, as pointed out by ReadWriteWeb, the AFP's story is problematic because it can be understood to imply that Twitter did a better job of reporting than did traditional media.

"Twitter reporting looks like this: "I felt an earthquake" -- "WOW: was that an earthquake??" -- "earthquake!!!!!!" -- "earthquake in Beijing so crazy!" etc," reported ReadWriteWeb.

But "The only thing Twitter does better than the traditional news is speed. It doesn't do depth, it doesn't do fact-checking, it doesn't do real reporting."

It doesn't give death tolls, information on the size of the earthquake and landscape, in-depth reporting...

As ReadWriteWeb smartly concludes, "Twitter will never outshine the mainstream press as long as reporters continue to do what they do best -- get on the ground, talk to the right people, find out what's really going on.

"Twitter will never be able to do that, but it can certainly play a major role in helping reporters get it done."

(Coincidentally, Twitter was initially designed by Biz Stone as a communication tool, after the programmer received a warning about a California earthquake as he was about to board a train.)

Source : Yahoo News (AFP) - ReadWriteWeb



Jean Yves Chainon


2008-05-15 14:06

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