Steven Kreimendahl Twitters Effect on the Media Twitter has been changing the face of journalism and the

media 140 characters at a time. Twitter started in 2006 as a way to tell your friends what you are doing via text message (Malik). Since then it has gained over popularity and now gets over 6 million unique monthly visitors (Kazeniac). now says that the purpose of the site is to “communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent messages […] of 140 characters or fewer.” These short updates have changed the way media is covered across the world. Anyone with an email address or cell phone can sign up for the website and send out updates. Twitter has changed the face of the media so quickly for several reasons. The first is because anyone can post to it. They say what they see, which is especially important if they are witnesses to some event going on. This can be from protests to rallies to terrorist attacks. It is also faster to post something onto Twitter then write out an article, which is longer and has to go through many processes before it is released. This gets breaking news out across the world before traditional media sources know that something has happened yet. An example of this is when the US Airways jet landed on the Hudson River on January 15, 2009 a Twitter user posted a picture of the downed plane before rescue boats reached the scene (O'Connor). Twitter has helped greatly in the growth of the media. This growth was exemplified during the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, during the 2009 Iranian elections and when natural disasters happen worldwide. After the terror attacks in Mumbai, India, many witnesses to the events used Twitter to share what they saw and heard. Since it was

such a relatively widespread incident, it was hard for the news sites to get all the information. So, instead they relied and pulled information from eyewitness accounts being posted to Twitter, at the rate of 70 tweets every five seconds (Beaumont). This is helpful because in the end the news outlets were able to report a more accurate and indepth article on what was happening. This can be helpful if someone has the time to verify what is being said, but the issue with it is that there were so many updates being posted so quickly that it was impossible to make sense of what was happening. Also, people were posting about the news of the incident as it unfolded (Beaumont), so facts and information was being constantly updated with “whatever updates they can get,” (Malik) updates that people can miss if they check the site five minutes before. This can help lead to the spread of false information about what was going on. These Tweets by witnesses removed the need for journalists being located were the events are as most news sites were watching Twitter to get information (Beaumont). Without the need of journalists to report the news, news can be put out about things where journalists are not allowed. For example in Iran, during the 2009 presidential elections, most foreign reporters were kicked out of the country, so there was nobody there to report. So, when “tech-savvy Iranian citizens as they took to the streets to protest [the] reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad,” (Morozov) they posted updates to Twitter so the world would know what was going on. The government was controlling all of the news within the country of Iran (Morozov), since they did not want any of the information about the protests being released. Some of the protestors made sure that they were posting the best information possible that CNN was criticized on the basis that a bunch of people with cell phones could get more information out then they

could (Morozov). Twitter became such an important portal for updates about what was going on in Iran not only for the media networks, but for the United States government too. Since there was no traditional journalism coming from Iran, the US government relied heavily on getting information through Twitter. This information was so vital to the US government that the State Department asked Twitter to change the time of a scheduled maintenance to the middle of the night Iran time, so people could continue tweeting the latest news (Labott). A senior official in the State Department said that Twitter “is a very good example of where technology is helping,” helping the world communicate. Not only is Twitter used to communicate news globally, but also it is used in a more local setting. When natural disasters happen, it is now many Twitters instinct to update what happened and say that they are not hurt. There are many examples of Twitter breaking stories of earthquakes around the globe faster then mainstream media and in one case before the U.S. Geological Survey (Kirkpatrick). The early news on Twitter is helping the spread of news, but is hurting the media outlets, as more people are relying on this type of self-journalism to report what is going on in the world. Twitter has effected how media is reported so much that all major news networks are on Twitter and have live updates. It is still a place were stories can be broken before a traditional news site knows about it, but as the co-founder of Twitter said, “one should not rely on social media alone,”(O'Connor) as there is no basis for credibility on the site yet. As Twitter continues to grow its impact on media and journalism will rise, possibly changing the way all news is reported.

Steven Kreimendahl Bibliography

Malik, Om. A Brief History of Twitter. February 1, 2009.


Kazeniac, Andy. Social Networks: Facebook Takes Over Top Spot, Twitter Climbs. February 9th, 2009.


O'Connor, Rory. Twitter Journalism. January 20, 2009.


Beaumont, Claudine. Mumbai attacks: Twitter and Flickr used to break news. November 27th, 2008.


Morozov, Evgeny. Iran Elections: A Twitter Revolution? June 17, 2009. 1702232.html


Malik, Om. Terrorist Attacks In Bombay, Follow on Twitter. November 26, 2008.


Labott, Elise. State Department to Twitter: Keep Iranian tweets coming June 16, 2009.


Kirkpatrick, Marshall. How We Use Twitter for Journalism. April 25, 2008.