Riveting Tragedy=Boring Twitter Debate

Published on November 27, 2008
by Peter Kafka

This is now clockwork: Some kind of calamity happens somewhere. Shortly after, an Internet debate breaks out about who did a better job of breaking and/or covering the story–citizen journalists/bloggers or boring old mainstream media.

The new variation on an old theme: Does Twitter constitutes a “news” source?

If you want to read about that at length, be my guest–there’s plenty over at Techmeme. But Dave Winer has summed it up pretty well in a couple of words:

What you see on Twitter, when: Permalink to this paragraph

1. People witness events that others are interested in; and Permalink to this paragraph

2. They’re posting about it on Twitter; and Permalink to this paragraph

3. The interested people are reading their posts… Permalink to this paragraph

It certainly is news. Whether it’s journalism or not isn’t a very interesting discussion, to me. Permalink to this paragraph

To the user, both extremes, Twitter and the most vetted pro news, require skepticism. The reader triangulates”

The Indian police, meanwhile, seemed to take Twitter seriously, at least according to the Times “Lede” blog, which reported that cops asked that both reporters and Tweeters “do not discuss their movements, because they are concerned that the terrorists in the Taj and Oberoi Hotels are watching television to monitor the situation.”

What I haven’t seen on the blogosphere–or any news outlet–is a reasoned and thoughtful discussion of why India is seemingly beset with terror attacks. But I don’t expect to read or hear that a day after a news event, in any medium, because that’s not fast-twitch material.

Meanwhile, if you want to see what actual Twitter users are actually saying about the Mumbai attacks, head over here (even though Twitter spent some $15 million buying a search engine, it makes its search function inexplicably hard to find).

From what I can see, at this point Twitter is basically a good place to find quick links to other people’s coverage of the event, but maybe I’m missing something. (Click on image to enlarge)

[Image Credit: Stuti, which seems to have lifted the image from NDTV India]

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