News Breaking on Twitter

By now everybody knows that Obama went on national TV at 11:00pm last night announcing that US forces killed Osama bin Laden.  Sunday evening I was watching TV, like many Americans, waiting for the weather report to tell me that there will be even more rain this week.  All of a sudden the local anchorman reported President Obama would be addressing the media at 10:30 and the subject of his speech had not been released but it was news that would affect not just the United States but the whole world. 

My husband and I looked at each other, I said Libya and he said immenent terrorist attack (ala the series 24).  Both of us went to the web to see if we could find out what was going on.  I have to admit my first stop was checking out traditional news outlets such as MSNBC and CNN.  Neither even mentioned the President’s upcoming speech, let alone any hints about what news was so important that the President would address the nation on a Sunday night.  It wasn’t until I clicked on Facebook (for totally different reasons than Obama’s speech) did I see a post from a friend on Facebook from Twitter indicating that bin Laden was dead.

RT @SecondFront: Twitter says Osama bin Laden’s dead. President to address nation in minutes.

That tweet was posted a good half hour before President Obama addressed the nation confirming the death of bin Laden.  About 15 minutes after reading that tweet, the regular media were reporting the President’s speech was most likely about the death of bin Laden.  As one friend on Twitter said, Obama “better start soon or his entire message is going to be irrelevant.”  Twitter scooped the President and the news media by a good 1/2 hour.  Actually there was one person who scooped everybody by 7 hours by unknowingly tweeting about the operation

On his blog, Daniel Hooker, has an interesting post on how Twitter is his primary news channel. 

Twitter doesn’t break news for me often in the sense that hours before an event is reported I know about it. It is my central channel for news, though, so what I like about social media is its ability to provide me with things that are easy to miss through all the pundit and questionable-expert-commentator babble.

Twitter has become a news and information sharing mechanism, often getting information out to the public before official channels can do it.  Now I realize the events at MLA are nowhere near as serious or have as much significance as the death of bin Laden or the tornados in Alabama, but news about the convention is being discussed. 

Just browsing the hashtag #mlanet11 you will see people discussing various events, vendors inviting people to their booths/events, discussions on local restaurants, SIG activities, etc. 

I know there are people there who aren’t sure how Twitter fits into medical libraries or the convention.  Heck I was that person a few years ago.  I stated in various webinars and speeches that Twitter was interesting but I wasn’t sure how it fit into medicine and libraries.  I still don’t know of all the ways it can fit, but I see it fitting in a lot more than I did then.  I use Twitter to discuss library issues with colleagues almost as much as I use MEDLIB-L.  Both are tools I find extremely important for staying up to date on information.  Using Twitter at the conference will just be another example of its use in providing rapid information to people. 

I encourage everyone to sign up on Twitter and see how it works for them, especially if they are attending MLA.  If you are hesitant, you can always search the hashtag #mlanet11 to see what is going on.  But doing that is like talking on the phone with laryngitis.  You can hear what people are saying but you can’t speak up and join in the discussion.

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