Twitter has a reputation for inane social interaction and fun stuff, but it is increasingly becoming a serious source of breaking news with a profound impact on how we get information. This shift is in part due to the popularity of using Twitter with mobile devices, as breaking news often appears on Twitter as events happen and are piped right to us no matter where we are or what we are doing.
I prefer to use Twitter on my mobile devices, as they are always with me and I find the apps better to use than the Twitter web site. Breaking news that hits Twitter thus comes to one of these mobile devices, which leads me to follow events as they unfold, anywhere I happen to be. I first heard about the unrest in Egypt on Twitter, and followed the entire situation the same way. The appeal was not only getting the information in near real-time, it was the perspective of first-hand participants that made the breaking news so vivid and real.
I suspect we'll find Twitter playing a more pivotal role in news in the future, specifically due to the expansion of mobile device usage. Breaking news happens no matter where we are, and with Twitter it gets to us instantly. This will have a profound impact on society in the long run, making Twitter one of the most important efforts in our lifetime.
I'm dating myself, but like most folks of my generation I remember exactly where I was when JFK was assassinated (Mrs. Myrick's first grade class). The event was so significant to my young self because of the reaction of the teachers (hysterical sobbing) and the other students. I remember it vividly because of the reaction to the news, not the news itself as I was too young to fully understand its significance.
More recently, I remember where I was when I heard of Michael Jackson's death (on Twitter). Not that this event was as significant as the earlier one, but the reaction of the Twitterverse to the breaking news of his death was memorable. This was the first time I realized that Twitter could play a big role in breaking news.
That role was expanded wonderfully during the recent situation in Egypt. The news hit Twitter fast and furiously, complete with inside information and links to live video of the events across the globe. The ability to follow happenings through a platform accessible from mobile devices was wonderful, and addictive. Media outlets were using Twitter as legitimate sources of information from Egypt. The need to know grew along with the information flowing through Twitter. It is undeniable that Twitter will play a pivotal role in breaking news going forward.
As tailor-made as Twitter is for getting breaking news on mobile devices, it is even more so for reporting those events as they happen. The platform's ability to capture news in photos, words and video is stunning, and ushers in a new era in reporting major events on the spot.
The inspiration for this article came this morning as Twitter was down and mostly inaccessible. I admit feeling disconnected from news of the world with the breaking news pipeline down. I was experiencing this dejected feeling while sitting in front of a 52-inch HDTV. Twitter has indeed landed.