Tweeting The Red Line Metro Train Crash

by Patrick on June 23, 2009

I’m not here to talk about the crash.

I’m not here to talk about how I was worried for my roommate, my friends, and how others were equally worried for me.

I’m not here to talk about how shocking the images are and how people are going to have a tough commute Tuesday- both getting where they need to go and seeing the front pages as well.

What I want to write about is how Monday’s experience really showed me how the communication of breaking news had changed thanks to social media.

There’s already been plenty of talk on how Twitter and The Internet has aided protests of the Iranian Election, but today really showed me first hand what everybody else was talking about.

So let me share a few things with you.

Meggie Poo's Metro Crash TweetThis was the first tweet I received about the Metro Crash, as you can read in my Metblogs piece I brushed it off. However take a look at her tweet, which is actually a re-tweet of a person she reads everyday. Thanks to tools like Twitter, news becomes more viral. Also we become part of the broadcasting.

First the Mass Media was composed of Newspapers and we learned about events days or weeks after they occurred. Along came television and 24 hour news networks, when news happened we heard of it quicker and we were often glued to the televisions. During 9/11 I was in a high school classroom, glued to the CNN broadcast. The information could reach a mass audience faster, but we were still to the whim of whatever the media could serve.

Now with Twitter first hand accounts and information can reach a mass audience in no time. The tweet above was sent minutes after the crash occurred. News channels were soon showing photos spread around Twitter alongside their own footage. With Social Media we become part of the news making process as well. Famous DC retweeted some news I put out there when it became known that among the dead was the train operator.

Twitter’s short messages makes the news making process byte sized, and thus we’ve moved from being glued to the TV to being glued to the computer screening, waiting for the next 140 character development to the story.

Google Search of Metro Crash

Talking more about becoming part of the news, take a look at a Google News search for “Metro Crash.” The 4th result down is the post I wrote over on DC Metblogs. I didn’t realize my DC blog was considered a news source but it doesn’t surprise me that news organizations are looking at Social Media when reporting their stories. News organizations see Social Media as the future and they gotta keep up or be left behind.

Finally Twitter is also being used as the mass messaging tool to check on loved ones and make sure everyone is ok. Breaking Tweets wrote a great piece on how Twitter was used during the accident which includes checking in on people. Even a DC injury lawyer also advocates the use of Twitter as a way to tell everyone, “I’m ok.”

Technology is constantly changing the way we respond when crisis strikes. It was only back in 2007 when Facebook was used during the Virginia Tech shootings; now Twitter has taken it’s place as the mass communication tool of choice. One day another tool will come along that will continue to make communication faster, robust, and more widespread.

Freaking out will never be the same again.

  • justjp

    We are witnessing an evolution of shared information. No longer are we looking to an authority to give us our news, but now we (twits and bloggers) are the news source. 2 things. 1) I like the idea of audience participation and real time reporting. 2) Where do we draw the line from a news source and a news reference? I am curious about this, especially in the accountability arena. Good post!

  • The Northerner

    I got more info from twitter yesterday than I did from the news. So crazy.

  • f.B

    Twitter was extremely useful yesterday for getting quick hits of info/updates. But I still had the TV on because 140 characters don’t substitute for live broadcast. I think yesterday is another example of how both social and big media need each other.

  • Patrick

    JustJP: What’s interesting is the spread of mis-information, I saw lots of tweets yesterday saying that the two trains where track sharing or running in opposite directions. As the mass media speculates- it only gets worse when it spreads on Twitter

    The Northerner: But how did that news get out there? It’s a big chain out there that…

    f.B: …touched on, you are exactly right: social media isn’t a replacement for the news media, it’s simply a channel to broadcast the information. We still need reporters out in the field to gather the information that we can’t get sitting at our desks.

  • Katie

    So interesting. People (including me sometimes) complain that social media is getting to be a little on the crazy side, but this definitely shows that it can be one of the very best ways to broadcast important info to a WIDE audience immediately.

    BTW, I like the new blog design!

  • Patrick

    Thanks Katie- I like your new eyelashes ;-)

  • Alice

    i got all my initial info on the crash – including the fact that it had *happened* – from twitter. i just read a post yesterday from a blogger that quit twitter for various reasons, but having access to twitter for that whole debacle on monday made me value it even more. like f.B. said, it doesn’t *replace* traditional news media, but i definitely think it augments it.

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  • Patrick

    Exactly Alice, I think it’s really important that as Twitter gets bigger and more and more people starting arguing it’s value over the current mass media- that they realize Twitter will never be a news source, but a news target.

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