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When tragedy strikes, social media reports

Before many news organization had even begun to report on the explosions at the Boston marathon on Monday, gruesome photos were already appearing online in Twitter streams.

The DailyDownload reported that cable networks, such as Fox and CNN, didn’t interrupt normal programming to report the attacks until 10 minutes after the first reports were seen on Twitter. It’s obvious social media has played a large part in connecting the greater national community and Monday was no exception.

In recent years, Twitter has often been a platform for breaking news even before traditional news organizations report it through their given mediums.  According to ABCNews.com, however, it was the Boston Globe that broke the news, it just wasn’t in print.

Two days later, social media continues to play a part in public awareness and news sharing. Venture Beat reported that the Boston Police Department has been keeping up with the news on its own Twitter stream by posting updates, while journalists and civilians are using Twitter to show support, offer news and tell their own stories. Journalists have also been reportedly using Twitter to connect with sources. The Poynter Institute featured one tweet from a man asking the reporters to “leave us alone right now.”

But Twitter isn’t the only social media platform that has been utilized to offer news and updates. YouTube has built a spotlight page featuring videos from the explosions and related newscasts. So far, 47 videos from interviews with witnesses to the latest updates from the White House have been uploaded to the site. Meanwhile, Google has created a page using its People Finder tool for people who are looking for someone, or have information about someone that may have been near the explosions.

Reddit, an entertainment site where users can submit content, has also been a tool for sharing news from Monday’s disaster. According to Mashable, one user compiled all the news from the tragedy, becoming “one of the best places to find info about the explosions,” wrote Mashable reporter Stan Schroeder. Reddit also became a platform for a Boston marathon volunteer, who has remained anonymous on the site, and used Reddit to share firsthand accounts of his experience helping the wounded.

Of course, Facebook is not to be discounted and serves as a useful platform for people to check on the status of friends and family, while its graph search feature, which serves as a searchable database, makes it easier to locate those in Boston.

Social media is not just a tool for businesses to brand themselves, journalists to promote their work or the random person to talk about what they ate for lunch. It has become a powerful mode of communication and source of news when tragedy strikes, supplementing traditional news coverage in a way that allows the public to be more aware than ever.

–Katrina M. Mendolera

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