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Tweeting News

Are Witnesses Breaking News on Twitter?

Breaking news on Twitter is a good way to direct traffic to news websites. But could non-professional tweeters’s witness accounts pose a threat to them by breaking news first?


In his lecture, Rory Cellan Jones showed how he had used Twitter Search to find the first tweets about the attacks in Mumbai.


He found they were not witness accounts, but links to already existing news stories, or people tweeting they had heard the news. This suggests people are still turning to official news sources for the latest stories.


I searched the phrase “I just saw” in the hope I might discover someone breaking news on Twitter.

On December 15 at 10.08 pm, Sara Wilcox said: “I just saw a lady eating a GIANT bowl of brussels sprouts.”

Brussels under the tap

Brussels sprouts: worth tweeting about

Three minutes later, Kyoodle said: “I just saw a guy get stood up in a restaurant. Wow, that stinks.

Then studiolaguna said:just saw “In Her Shoes” it is really good for a chick flick…I liked it…probably because my life is like that at the moment.

A search on the phrase: ‘”I just heard” came up with more promising results. Some people were tweeting their experiences of severe weather conditions in America.

Writeinmovement said: “just heard a huuuuge gust of wind out here in Beaverton…I hope I don’t get blown away trekking down town tomorrow :/.”

Jeff Jarvis said on his blog: “Twitter is becoming the canary in the news coalmine. It stands to reason: If you’ve just gone through such a major event, you are sure to want to update your friends about it. If enough people are all chattering about [China’s] earthquake at the same time, that’s a good and immediate indication of a major news story.”

But when I searched the two phrases, most people were tweeting they had just heard the news a journalist lobbed a pair of shoes at George Bush at a press conference in Iraq.

Even when people aren’t directly affected by major events, they are still affected by the news and still want to tell friends.  It does seem Twitter, at the moment,  is more about discussing news than breaking it.

Bush ducks lobbed shoe

Bush ducks lobbed shoe


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