Twitter is the social medium of choice for many

On Tuesday, only minutes after a U.S. Airways flight crash landed in the Hudson River, Janis Krums posted a message and a photo that he sent to Twitter from his iPhone. Within 35 minutes, his photo was broadcast and he was being interviewed by MSNBC.

This is the perfect example of “citizen journalism.” Krum’s timely and brief communication alerted the public before any of the major news networks could break the story.

“There’s a plane in the Hudson. I’m on the ferry to pick up the people. Crazy,” and a link to the photo was the brief message that alerted the public and the press to this terrifying event.

Twitter is a free social networking and micro-blogging service that allows its users to send and read other users’ text-based posts, known as “tweets”. Messages can contain up to 140 characters. One only needs to visit the website to sign up for a free account to post anything as ordinary as what they ate for breakfast to world-breaking news.

Updates are displayed on the user’s profile page and delivered to other users who have signed up to receive them, or “follow”, in Twitter lingo. Senders can restrict delivery to those in “groups” which they set up; delivery to everyone is the default.

Users can receive updates via the Twitter Web site, or via their SMS-enabled phone, email, or through third-party applications such as Tweetie, TwitterFox, and Facebook. Within the 140-word limit, users can insert symbols and hotlinks to Web pages and photos to complement their message.
Twitter is the method of choice for breaking news because of its speed, simplicity, brevity, and accessibility for both sender and receiver.

Media outlets use Twitter to gather information from various sources, often from different locations, especially for live coverage. In 2008, CNN began setting up Twitter pages for some of its anchors and reading tweets during broadcasts. Rick Sanchez and Don Lemon prominently feature updates from Twitter followers during their broadcasts.

Originally started as a research and development project by three developers in San Francisco in 2006, the Twitter service itself was launched in April 2007. According to, their Web site had over five million visitorsĀ in September 2008.

Twitter shows the power of “citizen journalism” while showing how dynamic mainstream media has become in the world of social networking.
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