Mere hours after a U.S. Airways jet crash-landed in the Hudson River next to New York City, stories about the influence of Twitter were being ejaculated left and right. They were all fawning over how news of the crash hit Twitter minutes before the big media outlets, and one person even posted a picture of the downed plane which got heavily circulated. This was described as a “scoop” for “citizen journalism”.
Don’t get me wrong, Twitter is a powerful tool, despite its really stupid self-imposed limitations. They will break these kinds of stories first and traditional news outlets should mine it for information (which they can then use for free!). But all it was were some eye-witness reports, in a city that has no lack for actual journalists. All we learned from Twitter was that a plane had landed on the Hudson River and that people were standing on its wing.
(Mind you, listening to CNN’s mindless filler yesterday afternoon, it was clear they didn’t know much more than that either).
But the rest of the story didn’t break on on Twitter. It broke through CNN or the New York Times or other outlets that could assign a journalist to chase the story.
Phil Carpenter, a Gazette photographer who recently started his own blog, points out that journalists who just repeat something they’ve heard (say, by rewriting a press release) don’t earn bylines because what they’re doing isn’t really journalism.
Perhaps we should consider that when we compare an eyewitness account to the work of a professional journalist.