Inside the News with Peter Mansbridge

Last Updated: Aug 8, 2013 11:16 AM ET

Stay off Twitter

Last weekend we once again saw Twitter dominate the breaking news space as word of the Asiana Airlines Flight 214 crash quickly spread across the social network. I've discussed many times on this site how that can be both a good and bad thing.

In a recent blog post writer Mathew Ingram wrote about the misinformation and speculation that came directly out of the first reports of the crash. Here's an excerpt below. You can read the full piece here.

Another breaking news event -- in this case, the crash of Asiana Airlines flight 214, which broke apart while landing at San Francisco airport on Saturday morning -- sparks more criticism (primarily on Twitter, of course) about how Twitter is a haven for errors and unfounded speculation, and how people seem compelled to retweet things during these events even if they have no knowledge of whether they are true or not.

We saw similar criticisms and debates about the value of Twitter as a news medium during the Boston bombings, Hurricane Sandy, the shootings at Sandy Hook elementary school, and pretty much every other major news event that has happened over the past several years.

At some point during the action, someone will complain about how many mistakes there are circulating on Twitter, and others will argue that we should all just refrain from tweeting or retweeting anything -- or perhaps just wait until later and buy a newspaper. ... The reality is that a breaking news event like a plane crash or a bombing is an inherently chaotic situation, and no one really has a firm command of the facts, including the first responders and emergency workers who are on the scene and talking about the event on the police scanner. That maelstrom of conflicting information used to be hidden behind the walls of the command station or the walls of the newspaper and TV newsrooms reporting on the event -- but now, thanks to Twitter, it is everywhere.

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