Using social media to track breaking news in Charleston

A chase, a wreck, a manhunt. That was the scene on Ladson Road near North Charleston today.

I found out about it within minutes not because the police released information or because I saw it on a news site, but because several people tweeted about it.

That’s the world we live in now: even journalists lean on social media sites to help track and report stories because news travels so fast. If you’ve been following the Ladson Road story you’ll notice that the questions about what happened outnumbered the answers.

A journalist wants to answer your questions as accurately as possible, even if police aren’t ready to release information, so you can decide what route home to take or whether you should take shelter.

To do this we do what we’ve always done: we talk to witnesses to try and make sense of what happened.

The new(er), Internet word for that is crowd-sourcing. We can now simultaneously ask an unlimited number of witnesses about what they saw. The inherent danger is we might be told an outright lie. Reporters try to guard against it by not reporting something as a fact unless it’s been confirmed or withholding something potentially damaging until it is confirmed. If we get something wrong we should correct it as soon as possible.

It is absolutely tricky territory but I’ve found that people would rather know something is happening rather than being told exactly what is happening hours later. What do you think?

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