Twitter: the New News?

I think it is safe to say that I have never watch more news in my life than I did this past week.  It’s sad, I feel like I need to be watching the news more…or do I?

I was talking to a friend the other day about Friday’s events and what she did during the lock down.  She told me that she watched the news for a long time but after a couple hours she realized she wasn’t getting new information and turned off the TV.  She figured if there was breaking news she would see it on twitter.

ImageI think it is safe to say that after watching about 5 hours of the news on Friday I have seen every clip they showed and every interview they did with witnesses at least 10 times each.  With something as big as a bombing at the finish line of a marathon followed by a city wide lock down for a day, everything needs to be live.  You never know what you going to get and that one second the news broadcaster turns away from the main subject they might miss something huge.  This also means that the news is going to keep on replaying the same clips over and over again and showing footage of a bunch of cop cars blockading the street until something new happens.

I could have easily turned off the TV like my friend had, but I didn’t want to miss anything.  I wanted to know when something happened as soon as it happened.  Of course I could have just followed all the news channels on twitter, but I figured what’s the difference between staring at a TV screen all day versus staring at a computer screen all day?

Surprisingly I think there is a big difference.  As I mentioned above I watched the news for about 5 hours, which consisted of watching the same clips over and over again.  I know have everything I watched drilled into my head.  I can recite every interview, describe every shooting rampage/ “popping noise”, and explain in detail all the events that took place on Thursday night all the way up to when Dzhokhar was caught. 

I could have just as easily been on twitter watching my news feed and not having to witness anything multiple times.  Even if other people mention something similar or retweeted something that I already saw it wouldn’t be a big deal because A) it’s less then 140 characters, which isn’t much to read and B) if it’s a link to a video or article I already saw I wouldn’t have to re-read or re-watch it.

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As we discussed last week in class, more and more people are turning to social media to read up on the news.  With all the conspiracy theories about the Tsarnaev brothers not being the marathon bombers (http://imgur.com/a/Nx8EU -WARNING DO NOT CLICK ON THE LINK IF YOU DO NOT WANT TO SEE A GRUESOME IMAGE) going around it’s hard to believe everything you read.  If you just follow the official news channel twitter accounts you can easily by pass unnecessary information and get straight to the breaking news, the info you really want to know, in real time.

11 comments

  1. I woke up on Friday to a cryptic text from BC, “Due to public safety concerns, classes are canceled and offices are closed until further notice.” I had no idea what was going on. I don’t have a TV in my house, so I began frantically looking for some decent live streaming news (which, you would think would be easy, but was not). Eventually I found a local Boston channel, and watched it for what seemed like forever.

    After getting tired of that, I just monitored Reddit. I couldn’t decide if the news or if social media was better. Both were repetitive, both occasionally put out overly-dramatic/misinformation to keep you watching/monitoring, and they both seemed to have similar information at the same time. I figured, the news is monitoring social media probably even more obsessively than I was (and every news channel was posting updates on social media), so I figured I wasn’t going to learn anything faster they they would. I think in some ways it was frustrating for anyone who uses social media/technology regularly, we want to know everything now, and Friday, we realized that we couldn’t (and we shouldn’t if we don’t want to compromise law enforcement).

    1. I was surprised to hear that a lot of the information presented on the news was first publicized on social media.

  2. Great post – definitely sounds like exactly how my time during the lockdown was spent as well. I had the TV on in the background pretty much all day, but after seeing everything once, I turned to Twitter (and admittedly an online police scanner) to keep up to date with what was going on in real-time. As you mentioned, this tragedy seemed to really highlight the major downfalls of a traditional news broadcast during a fluid situation with very dire consequences. It could be because this was happening right in our own backyard, but there was part of me that wanted to know exactly where the police were looking as it was happening just in case a firefight happened to make its way towards my apartment. While this sense of urgency is really only something that people in Boston could have felt, there were certainly people all over the country that felt the need to know what was happening in real-time – and unfortunately the traditional news sources were falling way, way behind.

    I do think there is certainly a changing climate where people are turning to Twitter more and more for breaking news, which like you said has its pluses and minuses. Even with the prospect of false rumors swirling around as a situation progresses, I do think the benefits of “live” news certainly outweigh the alternative of sitting around watching recycled videos until the traditional news sources actually catch up to what is really going on.

    1. I think the reason we were not told where exactly the police were was because if the suspect was following the news they would have an advantage and would be able to either attack from behind or know how to get out of the situation. I also think they were trying to protect the citizens and make sure they stayed home and didn’t go to the area where the officers were located.

  3. Great blog, I definitely agree with a lot of the things you said. For one, I too think I watched more news this week than I probably have my entire life. While I was watching TV all day, pretty much every single breaking story I saw first on twitter. This was one of the best examples that I’ve seen at just how much faster social media is than traditional news. It really is a great tool to have, but it does have to be taken with a grain of salt. For every correct report that I saw on twitter, there were 3 or 4 completely false stories. While useful, social media may be a bit too fast for its own good.

    1. I completely agree. It is hard to figure out what is true from what is false on twitter and on the news. Its hard to monitor whats being posted online and its even harder to make sure that all the information going up is true.

  4. I actually spent the day watching the news and reading Twitter, which proved to be interesting. I would read about a piece of news first on Twitter and then hear the same news being repeated over the air a few minutes later. I probably watched the news for 16 hours on Friday. While I found social media extremely helpful, there still were many tweets that were false or took a line that the police said over the scanner out of context. I found the balance of news and social media to be beneficial in seeking out what was true and what was false. Overall, I think that the past week’s events have changed the role of social media when it comes to such news. It provided instant updates at a time when people had absolutely no clue what was going on, yet it lacked at the full credibility that news stations still (for the most part) have.

  5. As I stated in my blog this week, I stuck with traditional network news, periodically flipping between 4 or 5 channels, and avoided Twitter and Facebook completely. I agree with your point about the frustration associated with seeing the same video clips over and over again. I recall seeing one clip of an armed officer rushing to the scene probably over 50 times.

    I’ve been giving this a lot of thought lately. I guess the ability to see and hear live TV is what makes it more appealing to me right now. I can than make my own judgements based on that. Tweets and Facebook posts are still largely anonymous messages. Even when the Boston Globe tweets something out, we have no idea who actually sent that tweet and what their motivation or sources were. At least we know the local stations have people on the ground or at the scene that we can physically see and hear.

    We are in the midst of an evolution and I have no doubt that all the issues with social media and breaking news will figure themselves out. In the meantime, I am going to stick with the basics. Nice post!

  6. I also watched 5 hours of TV until I could feel it had such a draining effect on me. I wondered why I was watching the same clips over and over again, and wondered if I heard the criminal’s uncle, or aunt speak over 15 times is going to change anything at all.
    So I actually chose to get my news from Twitter, a less invasive, more selective and definitely less dramatic place.

  7. I watched the news all day that Friday and I totally agree with how you felt. Even though, relatively speaking, everything happened so fast, it felt like it was taking forever. In the course of 12 hours, there was a lot of gunfire and battles between the police and the suspects. But those events happened very quickly. In between those events was hours and hours of nothing, and hours of speculation and expert opinion and interviews with people who apparently knew the suspects really well. I agree that it started to become draining. At around 7 o’clock, I finally had it and decided I had to make dinner. Just then, the breaking news happens and I missed it…in the 30 seconds that I walked away from the tv. Does that effect of watching breaking news on TV really feel different than following it on Twitter? I sort of imagine it does, because you don’t have a voice telling you what’s happening. Then again, I imagine it is not as draining as sitting for five hours following the news.

  8. As all of this was unfolding, I was: watching TV with the sound off, listening to the police scanner online, following the #scanner hashtag on Twitter, following my normal feed, and talking on and off w/ friends on the phone. It honestly felt like mission control in my apt as I was trying to keep up with the whole situation. I think you’re right – the developments on social media have changed the game for both news organizations and viewers alike. I think all of this also relates back to last week’s readings/discussion on how we build our own personal social networks and whether they limit the type of information that we receive as it becomes further and further customized to us. Interesting stuff.

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