Knight Center
Knight Center


Twitter breaks story of Discovery Channel hostage crisis in Maryland

Just like with the plane that landed on the Hudson River in 2009, and the massacre in Mumbai in 2008, news of a gunman taking hostages at the Discovery Channel headquarters in Maryland first broke over Twitter, beating journalists to the punch, according to the Washington Post.

Employee-taken photos of the gunman, identified as James Lee, were uploaded to Twitter "hours before television crews and radio hosts began reporting on the event," according to Bluhalo. "Not only did Twitter users break the story and provide photos before any of the major news agencies arrived on the scene, but the personal nature of the tweets from users who had friends and family members trapped in the building brought to life the incident and gave it a poignant, human face."

Using the hashtag #discovery, Twitter users posted news updates and requests for prayers for their friends and family members inside the Discovery Channel building. Even journalists posted requests for interviews.

Alex Priest wrote for Technorati that social media has "revolutionized the news business." Twitter, he wrote, "quickly became the source for information about the crisis...Other news organizations relied heavily on Twitter for information as well, and leveraged their own Twitter feeds to push news as it happened throughout the afternoon."

The crisis ended with Lee being shot to death, and the hostages freed without injury.

See here for more Knight Center blog posts about Twitter and breaking news.

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