In storm, Twitter trumps TV with near-omnipotence

Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Earlier this month, Will Oremus of Slate suggested that those who didn't monitor Twitter during presidential debates were missing half the show.

With coverage of The Storm Formerly Known As Sandy (TSFKAS), the percentages have shifted -- maybe permanently. If you watched the storm's arrival last night just on TV, at any given time, you missed most of the story.

At 10 p.m. Central time, most coverage on local channels and networks consisted of one soggy reporter standing on a balcony or a beach, stammering against the wind for long minutes. As many of us wondered, "Why aren't you telling us this from inside?" most of these reporters made painfully clear they had little information beyond what they could see. And they provided a woefully inadequate perspective on the storm's enormity.

Meanwhile -- in less than half a minute -- Twitter users could scan continuously updated, intensely dense coverage that approached omnipotence.

3 Twitter lessons learned from TSFKAS:

1. The more people you follow on Twitter, the more comprehensive your coverage. Unlike Facebook -- where you might want to limit your circle of friends to ensure you get high-relevance information-- the more populous the list of those you follow on Twitter, the more varied and textured your breaking-news intel.

2. As the Chicago Tribune's Scott Kleinberg explains, Twitter lends itself to quickly propagated (but also quickly debunked) scams and falsehoods -- including fake photos. So choose your Twitter contacts with an eye toward credibility.

3. Twitter can be a lifeline in a disaster. T.J. Ortenzi of the Washington Post spells out how: "If you lose cable, broadcast signal and Internet, you can still receive tweets about the storm -- even if you don't have a Twitter account."
* The Onion: "Misinformed Man Riding Out Storm In Bathtub Filled With Batteries"

What's this mean for broadcast news?

It's tough to compare TV and Twitter and not conclude that, to remain relevant, TV has to do a lot more than just send one reporter in a raincoat to the beach.
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