Thursday, November 27, 2008

Twitter, the Web, YouTube Prove Themselves in Mumbai Tragedy

I've written before about the use of text messages and Twitter in emergencies. In fact, in the U.S., emergency crews recommend the use of text messages rather than calls as SMS "piggybaacks" on top of voice data, saving bandwidth for those who really need it: emergency responders.

I, and probably most of you, have been awestruck by the terrorist tragedy in Mumbai, India. While many sat glued to the TV, many others searched the web, Twitter, and YouTube to try to get firsthand information from actual witnesses, or at least those local to the event.

A search of YouTube, for example, will produce a ton of videos, much of which, unfortunately, is copyrighted, but oh, well. If you missed something on the news, you can probably find it here.

The web has entered the picture as well, with tons of blog posts about the incident. A Google map showing the attack sites has been set up as well --- some would say, ironically, by Al-Jazeera News (it should be noted that some --- not myself, though --- try to disparage Al-Jazeera News, but it is a legitimate source).

Even Flickr has been used, with user Vinu submitting a series of photos of the aftermath.

Twitter, however, has been the real gold mine of information. A Twitter search reveals a host of information, much of it first hand information. Some of it corrects or supplements the mainstream media reports. For example, after information was broadcast that one of the hotels was cleared of terrorists, a tweet said:
Reports the siege is over are WRONG. Shooting continues at Taj and Trident locations.
Now, it's true that Twitter has been labeled "not journalistic" and criticized for misinformation, but inaccurate reporting isn't limited to Twitter. Witness CNN's iReport, something heavily promoted by the cable news channel, and one you would expect to be reliable. In the past, it has not, as stories are not vetted before posting. A prime example is the Steve Jobs fake heart attack story.

That particular story took a long time to correct. And there, for those Twitter doubters, is the beauty of Twitter. Erroneous information can be corrected quickly by others' Tweets. To me, if you want first-hand reports, and quickly, Twitter has emerged as a prime source of --- yes --- citizen journalism.

And despite prior examples of poor citizen journalism, this tragedy has brought out citizen journalism's best.

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