Digital Marketing and Social Media Strategy

US Airways plane crash appears on Twitter first

Photo by J. Krums

Today was another example of how Twitter users break news first. The US Airways #1549 plane crash in the Hudson River was a perfect example of how user-generated media has become so commonplace for Twitter users.

This isn’t the first time I’ve seen real breaking news on Twitter before mainstream media. Is 2009 the year of citizen journalism?

The news comes to us via regular folks on Twitter, the tweets spread like wildfire as they are retweeted, then traditional media picks up the story. Ironically, said traditional media then tweet the story. News is increasingly coming from outside our “normal” sources, news is coming from inside our own social circles.

It’s far from the end of traditional media, very far. It’s still traditional media who fully investigate the stories. We are all accustomed to trusting the legitimacy of a news story only after it has been reported by mainstream media. Let’s face it, as soon as you saw the first tweet today about the downed plane you probably turned to (etc.) for the full story. I’ll admit that I did too, but there was no story to be found – yet.

Then there’s the coverage. Not only are we learning about breaking news faster on Twitter, but we’re actually seeing the news there too. Take Flickr user, Gregory Lam’s first shots of the crash scene. I learned of his photos via Twitter. Not to mention the photo (above) by Janis Krums @jkrums, who tweeted his shot via Twitpic.

What do you think? Is 2009 the year of citizen journalism?


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  • Thanks Molly. I made the changes. I appreciate it.

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  • Great points John. I also wonder if we can bank on the stability of
    communication utilities such as Twitter. I know things really slowed down
    during the Macworld and CES keynotes recently. If a story is massive, I
    wonder how effective Twitter will be.


  • Hey Dave – awesome re the social media. FYI, it wasn't a united plane. It was a US Airways airbus. Hope you're doing great!

  • There are so many different things at play here that it's hard to say what will happen over the next year. Social media is rising and traditional print media is faltering, all while the economy remains in a tailspin. You hit on a good point, though, that there is still a big place for investigative and authoritative journalism. Citizen journalism efforts can succeed by filtering the news and offering unique editorial perspectives, in addition to providing quick info on stories like today's crash.

  • I think it's only going to get bigger. The infrastructure is in place but I think we need more robust hardware. By that I mean devices like the iPhone (which apparently was used to snap that pic) are going to need a better camera and video capture capability. I know Qik is eventually coming to the iPhone but as good as the iPhone is, it's still lacking. The pictures and text are great but video and a way to quickly upload it will really make citizen journalism take off.

  • Jim

    We are definitely going towards an era of getting our news as a whole as opposed to the New York Times. Newspapers are dying fast, they just aren’t adapting well. I would say the only thing to worry about is that getting news via twitter could be, uh, not accurate from time to time. But twitter combined with more authentic news sources should be a great combo.

  • Pingback: Twitter And The Legitimacy Of Breaking News | NewsTechZilla()

  • I love all this Social networking Websites and Blog!

  • I agree with John Hawbaker 100%

  • Fair question, certainly. I think Twitter may finally be moving past the fail whale stage — they impressed me on inauguration day, for instance.

  • Fair question, certainly. I think Twitter may finally be moving past the fail whale stage — they impressed me on inauguration day, for instance.