Social Media and Journalism in #Joplin

Social media services like Twitter and Instagram continue to influence changes in the world of journalism. I just recently came across a great Tumblr entry, What I learned in Joplin, from Times reporter Brian Stelter that really illustrates the point.

It has been, almost exactly, seven months since a devastating EF5 tornado ripped through Joplin, Missouri. The damage was extensive as the tornado reached a maximum width in excess of 1 mile, tossing heavy objects as far as 1/8 of a mile, and flattening many structures.

What I really like about Stelter’s post is that it isn’t a traditional summary and narrative of the event. Much like the medium(s) he was using that day, the post represents a stream of consciousness.

When Stelter reached #Joplin he was faced with poor cell coverage, a lack of power, and very little knowledge of the surrounding geography. Because of spotty reception Stelter was forced to file the most important information as updates to Twitter or text messages back to the Times. Occasionally he was able to post a photo on Instagram that documented what he was seeing.

It’s a great read and demonstrates how social media services are great tools for journalists. It also shows how the Times was forced to take a stream of consciousness and edit it for the Web and how they eventually just linked to his tweets – which may be even more powerful for anyone that was following the story closely.

News stories and television can embed a reporter, but social media services like Twitter can actually further expose the public to the event and have them experience and contribute to the story.

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