aka “I survived an earthquake and all you get is this lousy blog post”
So yea, I tweeted my way through an earthquake yesterday afternoon. Well, that’s not entirely true. Despite the claims of some, I didn’t feel the rumble and immediately reach for my iPhone. But I was sitting at my desk when the shaking started and once things subsided I, like many others, immediately flipped over to TweetDeck to find out if anyone else had their world rocked.
As has become the norm, word of the quake spread quickly over Twitter, followed in short order by the requisite deluge of tweets about how Twitter had, once again, kicked the mainstream media’s ass. Among the dozens of tweets of the sort that I saw, I thought Ottawa’s David Hicks did the best job of making the point:
Thanks to the earthquake, I can measure the Speed of News. Twitter: 20 seconds Radio: 20 minutes Television: 35 minutes Newspaper: Tomorrow.
Toronto-based PR guy Dave Fleet repeated the assertion that traditional media got beat as part of his impressively-quick analysis of the social media chatter about the earthquake.
Yesterday afternoon at 1:41pm EDT, a 5.0 magnitude earthquake shook Quebec and Ontario and it looks like people ran to Twitter instead of diving for cover. Once again, social media beat traditional media to the punch (as if this is news nowadays), although mainstream outlets were quick to report the news shortly thereafter.
Hard to argue, really. I was among those collecting and sharing information on Twitter. Thanks to people in my network, I knew where to find information on the quake (interestingly, it was on the US geological site, not the Canadian one. It crashed). I knew that a lot of workers downtown were evacuated from their buildings, I knew it was felt in Montreal and Toronto… not bad for a few minute’s work.
News or journalism?
So did Twitter “break” the story? Well, people on Twitter probably did, at least for a lot of people. And obviously Twitter played a key role in people sharing their experiences and checking on loved ones. No argument there.
But does that mean Twitter beat the mainstream press? Only if you think news = journalism.
People on Twitter did a great job telling people the bare facts. Those were quickly followed by jokes, reactions and other things that were more entertaining than informing. As it should. Twitter is a network of people. People like to laugh and share stories.
Meanwhile, the “defeated” media were busy doing journalism. Both the Sun and the Citizen have comprehensive quake sections today, with little things like explanations for how earthquakes work; context for the size and scope of the quake and its damage; photo galleries, reader stories; videos etc. The local CBC outlet found an expert who pointed out that the immediate reaction of most, running outside, was maybe not the best approach.
It’s time to stop comparing apples to oranges. Real journalism is more than reporting that something happened. It’s about context. Detail. Depth and breadth. Twitter and other social channels will always be able to beat traditional media to the punch. But that’s only a small part of what goes into journalism.
The mainstream media didn’t get beat yesterday. They did their job.