This month, NewsOne presents a special exploration of Black Americans’ influence on social media, #TWEETING WHILE BLACK.
The way we get our news has clearly changed. These days, Twitter is averaging 230 million Tweets per day. That’s up 110 percent since January. Though 40 percent of Twitter’s 100 million active users only sign in to read what’s up with everyone else, those users are connected to a community like no other; a community that, according to PCmag.com, includes “75 percent of the NBA’s players, 50 percent of the NFL, 82 percent of the U.S. House and 85 percent of the Senate; 87 percent of the Billboard Top 100 Musicians, and 93 percent of the top Food Network chefs.”
It’s a good thing, too, because when Kevin Durant got bored during this year’s NBA lockout, he used Twitter to find somebody to play with. “This lockout is boring… anybody playing flag football in Okc…I need to run around or something!” he tweeted. A student at Oklahoma State responded, inviting him to join his Sigma Nu team as quarterback in an intramural game. Within hours, @KDTrey5 arrived and threw four TDs.
It makes sense then that detractors, who side with journalistic purists and cite pervasive erroneous spelling and grammar and spambot-generated fake accounts in denying the power of social media, must also bow down to the way that writing in 140 characters has transformed communication.
Check out 10 news stories that broke on SMS before they reached the MSM.
1. DEATH OF A POP STAR
Heavy D, Teena Marie, and Amy Whinehouse’s deaths were on Twitter before mainstream media confirmed the news. Grandmaster Flash announced Heavy D’s death: “I was just told Heavy D passed away.” Sheila E. reported details on Teena Marie’s death: “They just took her body from her home. Teena Marie found dead by her daughter whos BD was yesterday. pray 4 her & her family.” Amy Whinehouse’s death, Tweeted just 20 minutes after she was found, was news even before her father was made aware. [stylist.co.uk]
2. OSAMA BIN TRODDEN
Before the official, late-night White House press conference announcing the Navy SEAL raid of Osama bin Laden’s Pakistani hideout, @ReallyVirtual unknowingly Tweeted the covert mission: “Helicopter hovering above Abbottabad at 1AM (is a rare event);” and Keith Urbahn, chief of staff for former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Tweeted news of bin Laden’s death: “So I’m told by a reputable person they have killed Osama Bin Laden. Hot damn.” [techcrunch.com]
3. QUESTLOVE’S RIDE
@questlove of The Roots Tweeted a warning to Occupy Wall Street approximately a half hour before NYPD swept Zuccotti Park, making more than 100 arrests and breaking down the camp. “Omg, drivin down south st near #ows. Somethin bout to go down yo, swear I counted 1000 riot gear cops bout to pull sneak attack #carefulyall.” By normal business hours, his midnight ride made him known as the modern day Paul Revere and the raid became one of the top news stories of the day. [thegrio.com]
4. MIRACLE ON THE HUDSON
Four minutes after US Airways flight 1549 unexpectedly landed in the Hudson River in January 2009, @Manolantern Tweeted: “I’ve just watched a plane crash into the Hudson river in Manhattan.” Another user used Twitpic to release a photo of passengers on the wings, writing: “There’s a plane in the Hudson. I’m on the ferry going to pick up the people. Crazy.” No people died, but the Canadian Geese who flew into and disabled the engines did. [stylist.co.uk]
5. DISCOVERY CHANNEL DRAMA
When an armed James Jay Lee broke into the headquarters of the Discovery Channel in Silver Spring, MD, Tweets emerged – including photos of the incident – even before he took three hostages. Employees used social media to connect with family and friends as the crime unfolded and eventually officers took control, and then shot and killed Lee. [techradar.com]
6. THE LOOP IN THE KIDNAPPERS’ CLAWS
Journalists will break a news story even when they’re the subject of the headline. After kidnapping and holding Japanese journalist Kosuke Tsuneoka for five months in captivity, and threatening the Japanese government with his death, an Islamist militant group allowed Kosuke Tsuneoka to use Twitter, reportedly to get their news updates. Instead, he broke news that he was “still alive, but in jail.” He was freed soon after, although it is unclear why. [switched.com]
7. MARTIAN FLAVORED WATER ICE
Tweeting on behalf of an unmanned space flight, Mars Phoenix, one of NASA’s Manger of News Services, Veronica McGregor announced a critical moment in space history: the discovery of ice on the planet. “Are you ready to celebrate? Well, get ready: We have ICE!!!!! Yes, ICE, *WATER ICE* on Mars! w00t!!! Best day ever!” [wired.com]
8. GROUNDBREAKING NEWS
Twitter was the main source of journalistic movement for the 2008 earthquakes that shook the U.K. (in February) and Japan (in May), and when one occurred in Turkey in 2011, it was Twitter that helped in the rescue missions. One follower of a local news anchor Tweeted, “Ercis central mosque behind the apartment building…” The anchor sent the message to a relief agency and two people were found trapped alive. [theglobeandmail.com]
9. ANCHORS ONLINE
Incorporating Twitter feeds into their coverage, U.K. daily, The Guardian collated journalists’ Tweets for live micro-blogging of the 2009 and protests such as “At least 600 people converged at Bank of England now. ‘They say warfare, we say welfare. They say get back, we say fight back’ #g20,” and “Police just intercepted a tank. Yes, a tank! Painted blue, filled with circa ten anarchists, outside RBS, liv st Now under police escort.” [thecollectivereview.com]
10. MARKETING STRATEGY
CNN also took to Twitter to stay ahead of itself as part of the mainstream media. Teasing an interview to later be aired on the network, an executive producer Tweeted Hillary Clinton’s announcement that she “would NOT be in an Obama 2nd term cabinet.” [msnbc.com]