Sunday, May 22, 2011


Remember how I mentioned yesterday that news breaks first on Twitter?

As I wrote that, I wondered if that meant rumors also propagate wildly on Twitter.  I really hadn't seen any signs of that -- less so, in fact, than in an average week's worth of emails -- so I decided not to mention that thought.

Today, with the Joplin tornado, and now tonight unconfirmed news reports of the death of Taliban leader Mullah Omar, I got double confirmation that breaking news stories do show up on Twitter first. 

I also saw my first probably-false rumors, in the form of tweets that first responders should rush to Joplin.  These were quickly countered by tweets stating that local authorities were following their emergency plan, and did not need to be flooded with out-of-area volunteers.  These tweets arrived amid a swarm of reports on local conditions which seemed to be confirmed by later "official" news, and even a few first-hand reports from Joplin residents.

Tonight came a handful of tweets relaying unconfirmed reports of the death of Taliban leader Mullah Omar in Pakistan.  As with the announcement of Osama Bin Laden's death,  and today's tornado reports, they started a good half-hour to an hour ahead of the first "official" news reports.  They appear to have originated from a private Afghan TV network, Tolo TV, quoting unnamed Afghan security sources.  It looks like the Chinese news service Xinhua also received confirmation of the story from an unnamed Afghan intelligence source.  As of a few minutes ago, Pakistani sources and Taliban spokesmen were denying these reports.

There were some tweets referencing a 2008 BBC report of the killing of another Mullah Omar -- and just as many tweets correcting the error.

So overall, I'm pretty impressed with Twitter as a news source.  You hear things there first; unconfirmed reports are pretty clearly labeled as such; and rumors and erroneous reports seem to get corrected at least as quickly as in the conventional news media.

My personal experience with news reports -- from EMS and long-ago campaign work -- leads me to believe that almost all news stories contain some inaccuracies.  One or two little ones per story seems to be the average.  Email "reporting" is far less accurate.

So yeah, I'm thinking you can't go too wrong with Twitter as a first-line news source.

The book?  Yeah, I've been working on that too ... but I'm going to have to email Tom my first batch from work tomorrow / Tuesday, I'm afraid.

I did get a little twitterpated this evening.

Good night, everybody.  Love and hugs!

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