Tweeting Tragedy

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Tweets from inside Fort Hood were used in news reports about the shooting there last week. But some of the tweets turned out to detail false information. Paul Carr, columnist for TechCrunch and author of Bringing Nothing To The Party, and Jeff Jarvis, professor at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and author of the blog, discuss the role of 'citizen journalists' and the line between constructive and destructive uses of social media.


Paul Carr and Jeff Jarvis

Comments [26]

Erica from Encino

If SMRSTRAUSS posts here again, you need to know he is an O-Bot whose mission is to undermine blogs questioning Obama's eligibility. One blogger had this to say about SMRSTRAUSS:

"With a little bit of work, I was able to find out this O-bot was likely Obama Superdelegate from DC, Shadow Senator Paul Strauss."

Anyone concerned about the eligibility issue should see these graphics:

Graphic Defining "Citizen" vs "Natural Born Citizen"

Graphic Defining "Natural Born Citizen"

Obama The Unconstitutional Usurper

3 Graphics: Quo Warranto Process to Remove Obama

Nov. 29 2009 09:42 PM

Re: " Obama's paternal Grandmother and cousins who have stated that they were there at the President's birth in Kenya."

NO they didn't. Obama's paternal grandmother actually said that Obama was born in Hawaii, and the rest didn't say anything. Obama's paternal grandmother was recorded saying that Obama was born in Hawaii.

This can be clearly heard if you listen to the complete recording of the tape, which is on Berg’s site. The complete recording includes a question asking “Whereabouts was he born?” And her answer was: “America, Hawaii.”

Here is the complete recording on Berg’s site. Be sure to listen for at least five minutes until the question is asked. (

If it is too difficult to listen to the complete tape, here is a transcript (

All the allegations of Obama’s birth abroad were checked out by the McCain campaign, and they found that there were no facts. No facts at all. (

Nov. 11 2009 07:55 AM

Great topic. James' comment above perfectly describes how I feel on the matter.

Nov. 10 2009 12:07 PM
mozo from nyc

If you take a look at some of these comments, it is no wonder that quality journalism is dying. Anyone remember what the word "twitter" originally meant? Two things: the chirping of birds and the dissemination of inconsequetial, meaningless information.

Nov. 10 2009 11:26 AM
Calls'em As I Sees'em from McLean, VA

Brian - where's the democracy? Why no calls? In the old days you would be getting calls from Walter, Brokaw, Pete Hammil, etc. on a segment like this.

Come on Brian - be a man - stand up to the powers at WNYC that have forced this reduction of listener participation on you.

Nov. 10 2009 11:22 AM
LH from Manhattan

Citizen journalism and "crowd-sourcing" have been your hobbyhorses for a while, Brian. It feels like you're being unnecessarily truculent, as is Jeff, because your a priori belief about citizen journalism is that it's a good thing, despite what the Fort Hood incident might reveal.

Nov. 10 2009 11:21 AM

I really do not like Jeff Jarvis's argument style.

Nov. 10 2009 11:21 AM
Pablo Alto from Da' Bronx

Mr. Jarvis is bloviating a bit too much.

Nov. 10 2009 11:21 AM
db from nyc

How is an "amateur" perception more or less accurate than a perception with a Columbia Journalism attached to it.

It's all subjective, and therefore subject to critical analysis.

BTW: Twitter is a snooze.

Nov. 10 2009 11:21 AM
SuzanneNYC from Upper West Side

Jeff Jarvis -- step back and take a critical look at this new citizen media. Don't just embrace it because it's there and it's new. And don't extrapolate from your behaviour to others. Based on what you're saying about this particular event, it seems we need to take on this new development with caution. It's one thing to tweet that you're at a Bruce Springsteen concert. It's another to tweet about a tragic event and post pictures.

Nov. 10 2009 11:19 AM
Calls'em As I Sees'em from McLean, VA

As a good liberal don't you want more info rather then less info?

I know that the media likes to control things, but that ship has sailed and is not coming back.

In 2008 the media lied to the people about Obama, his background, his friends, his legislative record, the thug tactics of his team during the primaries and the election - but the truth came out anyway - because people were there. The truth unfortunately ignored by 80% of the media "professionals."

The press has been lying to the people since the Crimean War. The people who were there tell the truth - like victims of the Holocaust or even Obama's paternal Grandmother and cousins who have stated that they were there at the President's birth in Kenya.

Too bad they didn't have camera web ready cameras in those days.

Nov. 10 2009 11:18 AM
Michael from Rockville Centre,

Twitter:CB Radio for the 21st Century.

Nov. 10 2009 11:18 AM
CJ from NY

Uh oh Smackdown!

Nov. 10 2009 11:17 AM
Gary from Upper Left Side

Twitter is for twits.

Nov. 10 2009 11:16 AM
hjs from 11211

what is a 'citizen journalists' i thought journalism is a profession

Nov. 10 2009 11:16 AM
SuzanneNYC from Upper West Side

This is hideous! The person who was tweeting was a medical person at the hospital? She was tweeting while she worked on gunshot victims? So now if you're in an accident or some other tragedy and taken to an emergency room or other public place someone is going to tweet about your status while you could be unconscious or dying? This is not good.

Nov. 10 2009 11:16 AM
CJ from NY

I have little interest in Twitter, MySpace, Facebook etc. However, these journalists sound a little elitest. News happens whether an "experienced journalist" is present or not. The problem is as long as getting paid is the incentive then all news is suspect.

Nov. 10 2009 11:15 AM
Annie Shreffler from Boston

Megan's article is fantastic, Alexandra. Thanks for sharing. Espcially, "There is no Society of Non-Professional Journalists setting standards for their behavior as they engage in their reporting." But, she adds that we'll have yet to see if group-moderation of a non-pro journalist's reputation will serve us as we look for reliable sources. Those of us who are journalists can take part in guiding those non-pros towards better ways to act upon their impulse to share a story.

Nov. 10 2009 11:15 AM

Quick question: Why do old people love twitter but hate blogs?

Nov. 10 2009 11:13 AM

I always knew twitter was a bunch of bull since the attacks in Mumbai. I was watching two indian tv station on the internet and reading twitter. The twitter people were just reposting stuff from indian tv! They weren't even there, just saying what's on tv. Half the people were Indians in America that weren't even in Mumbia! Then the hype from Iran was even worse. All these Iranian radicals are posting in English not Farsi? Really? And how do I know they are even in Iran and not just some American hillbilly trying to make Iran look bad? But the worst part? The "professional" journalists who love to bash the blogs all took it uncritically! Bah!

Nov. 10 2009 11:12 AM
hjs from 11211

like julith miller from the NY times on iraq

Nov. 10 2009 11:08 AM

So when things were in turmoil in Tehran everyone was hanging at the edges of their birds nest craning necks for the next tweet.

Twitter, blogging and facebook are not journalism, welcome to junknews.

Nov. 10 2009 11:08 AM
James from Brooklyn

The issue isn't Twitter - that's just one platform - but rather the expectations inherent in 24/7 "in real-time" news and maybe a larger "in real-time" culture. No matter how technology-enabled we are, we just can't know all things all the time. And the sort of "late-breaking" knowledge - where? who? what building? how many casualties? - cannot substitute for more complex knowledge - why? what are we dealing with? what was the motive? I think that's the false promise peddled by the good-looking and excitable people on TV. That we can know all; that the latest update will be the key to it all. But it's always not. And the result of the breakdown is anxiety, speculation, and the substitution of "new information" for facts, logic, and consideration.

Nov. 10 2009 11:05 AM
Tony from San Jose, CA

Well, "professional" journalists make mistakes all the time. The quality of tweeter and other new sources is about the same.

Nov. 10 2009 11:03 AM
Alexandra Fenwick

Check out my colleague Megan Garber's piece for the Columbia Journalism Review on Paul Carr's story: "Citizen Journalism vs. Tragi-Porn"

Nov. 10 2009 10:43 AM
hjs from 11211

treat every eye witness with skepticism

Nov. 10 2009 09:01 AM

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