Eye-witness Twitter - on Mumbai bomb blast

Citizen journalism provides up-to-the-minute reporting of terrorist attack

Technology trends and news by Bambi Francisco Roizen
November 26, 2008 | Comments (4)
Short URL: http://vator.tv/n/58b

The realization of the power and value of citizen journalism seemed to become evident today, following the brutal terrorist bomb attack in Mumbai, India.

According to Bloomberg, "as many as 80 people were killed and 240 injured in the Indian city of Mumbai in grenade and gun attacks late yesterday, with five-star hotels among the sites targeted." 

This report was the top report on Google News. It was posted 30 minutes from the time I read it.

On Twitter, the news coverage - either from people in Mumbai, or from people posting updates or suggesting resources to check out - was running like a ticker tape, providing non-stop and up-to-the-minute reporting, or opining.

Twitter, which was designed to capture ambient noise, was capturing sentiment in spades for this particular event. 

If you stayed on Twitter long enough, you'd gather all sorts of relevant information, commentary, analysis, and man-on-the-street accounts that could help you piece together information that not even CNN's experienced team could gather, at least fast enough. 

From key flash points on Google maps to Obama's official statement, to relevant numbers provided by this Tweet: "US State Dept call center for americans concerned about u.s. citizen family/friends in mumbai 1-888-407-4747."

Realizing that Twitter was where the action is, news outlets, from BBC, CNN and KCBSNews Twittered that they were seeking to talk to people living in Mumbai, or seeking to gather information and photos.

Other crowd-sourcing sites were at work providing coverage as well. At NowPublic, there was first-hand reporting as well. 

Twitter and NowPublic, and other crowd-sourcing sites, such as Flickr, were doing a much better job at getting participation. 

Forget CNN's iReport service. The last update on Mumbai was an hour ago. 


There have been many critics of citizen journalism, arguing that there would be degradation in quality and factual reporting. Well, clearly, you can't watch Twitter and take anything to heart. 

But citizen journalism isn't assaulting our culture or threatening our values, as some critics say. "Amateur hour has arrived and the audience is running the show," said one critic.

Indeed, the people are running the show. But, in this case, some are in the best position to do so. 



Steffan Klein, on November 26, 2008

Yes, journalism has changed unbelievably since I stopped working as Foreign correspondent in the mid nineties. These kind of eyewitness reports give an amazing insight into events as they unfold. To me the quality of citizen journalism is not the issue, as long as the information is correct. I always found it extremely frustrating to follow up on well presented news stories on TV, on radio or on the newswires to write my own story, only to find out the original report had been badly researched and was factually incorrect. If I can have real information over glib presentation, I’ll take the information anytime !

Michael Klinger
Michael Klinger, on November 26, 2008

This event is too horrible for words, but there is a hopeful element to the ability for people to stay so connected throughout the unfolding of it all. I'm sure you've captured the main media-side lesson of this (NYT already echoing the Twitter angle). Gauging he human impact of this will take much longer, but new social tools will likely outline that side of the story, as well. Thanks for knitting it together so quickly.

Bambi Francisco Roizen, on November 26, 2008

Steffan: there is definitely a lot less room for big media to "manipulate" the information. but of course, big media is still helpful in vetting the information.

Bambi Francisco Roizen, on November 26, 2008

Michael: I agree. It's a terrible event. But in these times, in some strange way, there is hope. Tragedies always bring people together. You don't need the Internet for that.

Mitos Suson, on November 28, 2008

I think one should not discount citizen journalism. It maybe a biased and subjective report, but I am sure there is a grain of truth in it.
A true reporter should consider these reports as well, filter it based on his research facts, and leave the rest. Thanks for sharing Bambi!

Jay Peek, on November 28, 2008

In managing my environment, my creedo has been an ascetic diet of No (TV) News and subsequently- No Violence. I'd rather watch The Onion.
So forgive me for sounding insensitive and naive here but, "Why the emphasis on the Taj Mahal Hotel"?
Why is this American news? Did the terrorists anticipate this being American news? If not, why? If so, why?
I have a feeling this has indirect connections to Britain AIGs recently retired CEO being lambasted by America for our 700 billion bailout, the staunch support from the British (coffers) government in US occupied Iraq and British money extended all the way to (old colonial) India.
But now I just sounded vulnerable in my posits and that leaves me wide open to ridicule.

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