Social media’s role as a major source of breaking news during important events increases with each big story, with last summer’s unrest in Iran serving as a tipping point for information exchange using services like Twitter.
The New York Times– a standard-setter for old media and “the paper of record”- can tend toward the conservative when it comes to adopting these technologies. (For instance, their Standards Editor banned the word “tweet” from the paper outside of “ornithological contexts.”) So a Tumblr post from a Times writer extolling the value of Twitter over other methods of reporting during a major disaster like the tornadoes in the Midwest this month feels like a pretty big moment for social media.
Brian Stetler described his Joplin experience in a “stream of consciousness” post on his Tumblog, deeming his Twitter updates as “[his] best reporting.” Stetler describes the chaos that breaks down the communications services we’ve all come to rely on during such events, like difficulty accessing cell signals, and how social media can play a crucial role in disseminating important information in a sortable, searchable way.
Stetler’s post is also an interesting study on how the structure of Twitter enables one to create a timeline- either for personal reasons, to keep followers abreast, or to chronicle an event or circumstance for general viewing. You can read Stetler’s entire post here. Do you turn to Twitter or Facebook for on the ground reporting when major events happen? Can the service compete with more polished journalism for getting information out in a crisis?