Social media sites have become an important tool for breaking news, many times breaking a story before the mainstream media picks it up. Sites such as Twitter have also been important communication tools for those affected by the events as they unfold.
Yesterday, news about a shooting in Fort Hood, Texas, shocked the country and almost instantly became a trending topic on Twitter. The massacre, which killed 12 and left 31 wounded, sparked interest and supporters from around the world — many of whom ended up leaving comments on the Army’s social media sites. The Facebook group “Prayers for Fort Hood” was started soon after word spread, and currently it has just more than 20,000 supporters. The U.S. Army‘s Facebook page was also flooded with support and prayers from people around the world. As one person wrote, “My prayers go out to the family and friends of the fallen heroes. It’s time we remember to pray for all our soldiers regardless of where they are.”
“As a soldier, it’s like losing part of your family,” said another user. “I love the U.S. Army and this will be resolved. Pray for the wounded and killed. I thank them for their service, hooah.”
The unfortunate events in Texas were not the first time social media has been used to share breaking news. In June, the death of pop star, Michael Jackson not only swarmed social media sites for weeks but ended up having so many users online posting about Jackson’s death that sites like Twitter and Facebook crashed.
And it was thanks to sites like Twitter that Falcon Heene will be forever known as Balloon Boy. As the world watched a balloon flying over Colorado live, everyone was worried about the safety of Henne, who was hiding in his garage attic. Later that night, Heene caused an uproar all over the world, when he told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer they he “did it for the show.” The story was covered endlessly for weeks while some took humor in the event, creating a fake Balloon Boy Twitter account, poking fun at Heene’s parents.
Twitter has also played an important role when it comes to sharing images of breaking news stories. It was Twitter user, Janis Krums, who shared the famous first image of US Airways flight 1549 sitting in the Hudson river in January. Krums was on a ferry crossing the river when the plane crashed, the ferry then changed its path to help passengers. His picture has since received close to 500,000 views and he has been congratulated for his input into citizen journalism.
On October 28, Joe Marshall was on his way home from work when part of the Bay Bridge in San Francisco fell right in front of his car. Marshall snapped a picture and sent it to Twitter as well, causing news stations in San Francisco to let Marshall tell the story since he was “first on the scene.” Authorities soon closed the bridge for several days for repairs and the bridge opened up again earlier this week.
Social media has really put what happens in the world in users hands helping choose what stories get told. It has also been great for finding breaking news and images of the rest of the world, letting everyday people tell the story.