The Power of Social Media on the News

At 1:51 pm on Tuesday, I along with most of the residents from North Carolina all the way up to Canada felt the ground beneath me shaking uncontrollably. I immediately ran out of the building, and of course took my iPhone with me. When we were trying to figure out what in the world happened, I turned to Twitter. The first tweet I saw was from HuffPost Hill which is The Huffington Post’s politics newsletter.

It read: @HuffPostHill EARTHHHHQUAKKEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE

Following that tweet, I saw tweets from newspapers, magazines, celebrities and friends tweeting about the Earthquake. Media Life Magazine said that there were more than 40,000 earthquake-related tweets posted on Twitter within 1 minute of the earthquake (www.medialifemagazine.com). From Twitter alone, by 1:55pm I knew that a 5.8 magnitude earthquake touched down 87 miles away from Washington DC – this was all known before CNN was even turned on in the Media Works conference room.

Not only has social media become the new phenomenon to report breaking news, it also helps to spread important news in a viral way. On June 4th, I saw a tweet from a friend saying “If anyone has seen Lauren Spierer please contact Bloomington Police 812 339 4477”. Within a few days, unfortunately, “Lauren Spierer” and “#findLauren” became trending topics on Twitter. There was a twitter account created named @NewsOnLaurenS and to date there are over 29,000 followers. This Twitter account posts breaking news about Laurens disappearance as well as where people can help to search for Lauren.

In the days following Laurens disappearance, family, friends and supporters helping to find Lauren had gotten Kim Kardashian, Ryan Seacrest, Nicholas Sparks and many other celebrities to help get the word out about this 20 year old missing girl on Twitter. This story has gone international with the help of Social Media, and although the search for Lauren is still going on, Twitter and Facebook have helped tremendously to continue to keep this story relevant, and to help find Lauren.

People say “What did we ever do without cell phones and the internet.” I think it is safe to say, what did we do without social media? It is a powerful tool that can be used by people like you and me. Acquiring and dispersing news is not dependent on major news outlets any longer. The news of an earthquake was first reported through this medium and Lauren’s sad story was only covered after her family and friends shared on Twitter and Facebook. Like it or not, these giants are shaping our generation.

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