The Boston terror attacks on Monday’s last week that resulted in three dead and 130 wounded were heard round the world through Twitter. The Boston Globe, which up until then had around 50,000 followers, was the first to make the news known on the microblogging social network, and started getting new followers like wildfire, which currently surpasses 150,000.
When you hear that something important is going on in some part of the world, you run to try to find a news source so you can know what happened. Not long ago, the first thing you would do to satisfy your need for information was to turn on the TV. Now, the large majority open up their Twitter account, and look for the Trending Topics. Not even digital news outlets are capable of reaching the immediacy of the 140-character network that always has someone on the front lines of information.
Being the first, having the exclusive, and immediacy are key to journalism. But, on many occasions, we’ve seen that when fast information is given priority, the quality of the news falls by the wayside, and some news outlet sticks its foot in its mouth and publishes unreliable information without verifying it.
Ever since Twitter began to flourish, there have been many media that turn to social networks as an alternative source of information, but even though news is released at the speed of light, there is almost always some witness that has already tweeted it, or has posted a photo, before it is published on a digital news site, or it is shown on the news on TV.
Twitter’s extensive reach is so important that the best option for the media is to tweet the first news so they can have time to write up what happened without losing the exclusive. When The Boston Globe tweeted about the attack as “Breaking News,” the tweet spread like wildfire before the news was even officially published, and was retweeted more than 10,500 times. Therefore, it was Twitter that revealed the tragedy to the world while other media were still preparing the information.
BREAKING NEWS: Two powerful explosions detonated in quick succession right next to the Boston Marathon finsh line this afternoon.
— The Boston Globe (@BostonGlobe) April 15, 2013
The influence that social networks have on the media is obvious. Having 100,000 new followers in just one day by having the exclusive on Twitter will positively favor the newspaper’s future publications.
It’s not the first time that an official twitter account – whether informative or not – has received an avalanche of new followers in a matter of hours. The tweet that President Barack Obama posted after being reelected as president of the United States was the most retweeted in history – thirteen characters that were spread across the globe.
Four more years. pic.twitter.com/bAJE6Vom
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) November 7, 2012
Ultimately, the immediacy of Twitter has such a reach that there isn’t a single communications medium that cannot allow itself to not have a presence on the social network. In the case of the Boston attack, regardless of how much information the media released about the issue, The Boston Globe received most of the attention from readers it was the first to give the scoop in just 140 characters.