Thursday, January 15, 2009


Twitter has broken news—first—yet again, in a potent reminder that microblogging content may not always be so emphemeral [nor widely unimportant], after all. [Social activists, listen up.] Minutes after U.S. Airways flight 1549 crash-landed in the Hudson River earlier today, 23-year-old Janis Krums, a resident of Sarasota, Florida [who was on a river ferry that was among the first to get diverted to the scene], used his iPhone to snap this photo, above, of the downed plane and post it on Twitter. The photo apparently was the first in the overall news coverage of the event today and immediately went hyper-viral: 34 minutes after Janis posted his photo, MSNBC interviewed him live on TV as a witness; by this evening, thousands of people online had seen it and the New York Daily News is reporting that the surge of interest in Krums' photo has caused TwitPic to crash. Citizen journalists, many of them using Twitter, also played a role in the coverage of the Mumbai terror attacks in November and the U.S. presidential election in November.

Look for more ordinary people, as well as social activists, to get more proactive in using their social media this way—to bear witness as things are happening rather than further after the fact. We're all first-responders now; social media and the immediacy they offer to our knowledge of the unfolding events around us are redefining what is meant by "breaking news."

Krums' tweet and photo, posted on TwitPic at 12:36 pm today, read as follows: - There's a plane in the Hudson. I'm on the ferry going to pick up the people. Crazy."

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