During Hurricane Sandy, Twitter was my primary source for news and information. I got first hand reports from people all along the coast through advanced Twitter search using the location field. I could see first hand pictures of the storm and its damage by running a Twitter search for #Sandy and Instagram.
If I turned on CNN, I got the same reports and pictures. CNN was following Twitter just like me. If CNN did not, they simply could not compete with social media on coverage.
Like a lot of people, my primary source for information about Hurricane Sandy last night was Twitter. There I learned how high the water was rising during the storm surge, that a crane was dangling high above 57th Street and the façade of a building had fallen right off. I also quickly got wind of Governor Chris Christie’s praise of President Obama’s handling of the crisis. ConEd’s warnings about power cut-offs showed up repeatedly right until—and after—the power was cut off.
After following the storm on Twitter, I found televison coverage far inferior. TV reporters and newscasters looked a bit like entertainers, looking for a sensational shot from where they placed somebody, whether the location was newsworthy or not. I was like Berfeld.
Because I was relying on Twitter, I didn’t have to put up with TV news reporting. No repeating of familiar details. No filling time before news conferences. No intrepid reporters on windy beaches or in flooded streets. No banter.
Instead, I got a rolling, constantly updated distillation of crucial information from a wide range of sources. And when I wanted more details or confirmation, I could follow the links in the tweets or go to news sites.
Sure there were false tweets, such as the one about the New York Stock Exchange being under 3 feet of water, which I retweeted from a Weather Channel producer.
Berfeld was there with me on Twitter and saw the fast corrections.
I also briefly thought the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange was under water. It wasn’t. I also thought that there were workers trapped after a ConEd transformer exploded. They weren’t. There were photo hoaxes out there, too.
But in each of those cases, and probably others, the news was quickly corrected by more informed sources on Twitter, including the companies themselves. And in the case of the stock exchange, the rumor was also reported by CNN and the Weather Channel.
Social media is aptly described. We get our media, including our news, socially. Not only has our source for news changed, but the quality of our news has changed for the better with social media.
There is simply no way traditional news media can match citizens with smart phones located where the news is happening who are reporting first hand as the news is happening all around them.