I first learned about yesterday’s incident at the Discovery Communications headquarters via Twitter. It started with a simple tweet about traffic issues in the Silver Spring area and quickly mushroomed into a torrent of information, updates, and pictures of the scene. Media outlets, people who worked in the area, and others posted what they saw, and allowed those of us who weren’t at the scene to keep abreast of the rapidly developing story.
I briefly was watching TBD.com‘s online stream, but found it to be typical of TV station crisis coverage: lots of speculation and repetition of the scant facts that were confirmable. Without question, Twitter had the most comprehensive, up-to-date coverage of the situation and its aftermath.
Legacy journalists have criticized the idea of crowdsourcing news, complaining, in particular, that misinformation or knee-jerk reactions can quickly go viral. But that downfall was also a virtue. Several times throughout the afternoon people had tweeted inaccurate information, or drew connections and conclusions that turned out to be false. Just as the misinformation spread quickly, so too did the debunking. Incorrect facts were quickly corrected by others; other facts were quickly corroborated. Put simply, Twitter appeared to function as a true, unencumbered marketplace of ideas, where the best ideas won. No rambling news anchors, no reporters shoving microphones into random bystander’s faces, no and no buried ledes. Just unadulterated content, filtered by the masses, in 140 character chunks.
Other than a handful of media outlets who were tweeting (and, largely retweeting that which other individuals had already said) there wasn’t an AP member among us.
Is this the future of news? I sure hope so.