A tornado sweeping through the Colorado area Thursday prompted Poynter reporter Amy Gahran to search online for additional information. Thanks to a friend's warning on Twitter and visits to a couple of hyperlocal news sites, Gahran was swiftly informed of the tornado's path.
"I suspected that, like me, some other locals might have Twitter running on their computers (or alerts coming to their cell phones) but not be paying attention to mainstream media at the moment," Gahran writes.
Not that it would have mattered - Twitter had "broken" the story before the mainstream media had even altered their regular programming (remember the earthquake in China?).
Gahran suggests that journalists and editors join Twitter, identify local Twitter users, and learn how to use TweetScan, Twitter's search tool.
"Twitter's popularity has reached the point that it can be a valuable early warning system to nearly anyone," Gahran writes, "Including journalists and news orgs."
Gahran's story is a good example of the potential of Twitter and the benefits of hyperlocal news in breaking news situations.