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Where were you when…?

Photo courtesy of United Nations Development Programme via Flickr

With the Haitian earthquake last week, Twitter became not only a source for news updates, but also an opportunity for victims to reach out for help.

I was reminded of the days following September 11, when people frantically rushed into downtown Manhattan with fliers displaying pictures of their loved ones. They stood in front of news cameras pleading for any information about people who were almost certainly lost in the attack.

Watching the earthquake coverage and made me wonder how other historical events would have been reflected on Twitter.  So many legitimate news organizations are turning to the site for the blow-by-blow of current events.  

When stories first break, Twitter is filled rumors news organizations can use as leads.  With the “Balloon Boy” hoax a few months ago, Twitter was buzzing with rumors that the boy appeared on the reality television show, Wife Swap well before it was reported by any news service. The revelation contributed to the parents’ eventual admission that the entire situation was a hoax aimed to gain exposure for a possible reality show.

With the recent deaths of actress Brittany Murphy and heiress Casey Johnson, news outlets such as CNN used quotes from celebrity Twitter accounts rather than speaking with the person. I wondered if these outlets even attempted contacting the celebrities they quoted, or was a 140 character post on Twitter enough?

Twitter gives everyone the opportunity to glimpse inside the personal lives of others. Some of the most compelling tweets were from quake survivors pleading for help. News outlets included these tweets to give people a truly unique and deeply personal perspective on the earthquake. 

How do you think Twitter would have reflected other world events? Just yesterday I read a news story asking what Martin Luther King Jr. would think of Twitter and pondered if he would have used it. Will Twitter be quoted in history books looking back?

About Cision Staff

Cision's research staff makes over 20,000 media updates to Cision's Media Database each day! For more updates and other thought leadership in the industry, follow @Media_Moves.

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