Thursday, January 15, 2009

When News Breaks, Where do You Turn?

Back in my newsroom days we had a series of feeds coming in on a regular basis, most were TV screens. Of course, we also had the AP wire on our computer screens feeding us breaking news as it came in. For people in the newsrooms this was commonplace.

But in the working world people didn't have this constant feed. People only got the news when they turned on the radio, TV or were told about something from a friend. Back in 2001 I had just settled at my desk with a cup of coffee when a friend IM'd me that a plane had flown into the World Trade Center towers. I immediately ran to the TV to turn on CNN and for a good 10 minutes sat alone in our lounge. Over the next 30 minutes people filtered in to watch, as they had just heard the news.

Flash forward to today when a plane went down in the Hudson River. My first news came from Twitter, which feeds constantly onto my desktop from a program called Digsby. After seeing the news I jumped to to see if anyone else was posting, then hit the major news sites. Inside of 5 minutes I had video streaming from to my desktop.

The video was certainly compelling, but not nearly as compelling as a single picture that a bystander sent from his iPhone through Twitter.

This wasn't the first time today that I turned to Twitter and IM before the traditional news coverage. Earlier in the day I sat in traffic on Totten Pond Road and rather than turning on WBZ to hear that ther was an electrical fire, I turned to my BlackBerry to find out that Totten Pond Road was backed up all the way along my trip. 'BZ only tells me about the major highways, like 128. A quick IM to a friend told me of another open route and I shaved about an hour off my time to work.

That doesn't mean the traditional news venues are worthless, they're not. They give me the perspective and research I need to better understand an event. But for breaking news it's all about eyewitnesses and instant coverage.

It's no wonder, then, that today the Boston Globe announced it would cut 50 jobs from the newsroom. I know, I'm part of the problem.

I just don't know if there's a way to make money on this kind of information flow.

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