How Twitter secured its future during Boston Manhunt

Over the past year, I’ve had several discussions about the staying power of social media outlets, particularly Facebook and Twitter. I always felt like it was impossible to predict their future, considering there has been nothing in the past to provide a basis for a forecast of social media.

However, after Friday’s riveting manhunt for the Boston Marathon bomber, I am convinced that Twitter and Facebook are here to stay.

The manhunt that shut down Boston will certainly go down in American history. It can also be viewed as the day social media became a quicker and generally more accurate source of news than broadcast TV stations.

Watching the manhunt on Twitter

Friday morning I woke up to more than 500 missed tweets. It took me more than 20 minutes to read through the play-by-play of the late-night shootout between the Boston marathon bombers.

I spent the rest of the day on Twitter, conversing with people while delivering some of the information from the Boston police scanner I was listening to via a UStream link (no, I wasn’t one of the people delivering tactical information which the police asked to remain off social media).

I found a couple of great follows on Twitter, namely Newsbreaker and Michael Skolnik from GlobalGrind. They were on top of everything and were definitely the first to deliver accurate information.

I had on some of the national TV broadcasts throughout the day, and it was crazy how far behind they were in the developments. Some of the things they would report as breaking had already been resolved 20 minutes earlier.

Twitter also had great video of the shootouts being posted throughout the day. Again, this was stuff that wasn’t seen on TV for quite a while.

When Suspect 2 was discovered in the boat in Watertown, the news stations seemed to have no idea what was going on. Hell, CNN didn’t even have a cameraman on location when the suspect was taken into custody.

Meanwhile, Twitter was giving great play-by-play of the final standoff between police and the suspect. Thanks in large part to the police scanner, Twitter reported the suspect was in custody nearly five minutes before any other news outlet. By the time the news stations were reporting the arrest, the celebration was already well under way.

Accuracy: Twitter vs. broadcast news

Now look, Twitter certainly wasn’t perfect during the manhunt. There was some false information out there, the biggest being Sunil Tripathi, a missing person since March, said to be one of the bombing suspects. The Atlantic did a great job of detailing how that false information spread via social media.

That situation does show the dangers of social media. A couple of tweets go out, and suddenly everything goes out as facts.

However, can we say traditional journalism did any better? CNN, FOX News, the Boston Globe and the Associated Press all inaccurately reported Wednesday that a suspect in the bombing was in custody. Guess what – those reports were made with their own sources. Twitter was not to blame for those big-time screw-ups.

Throughout the manhunt, some people were criticizing social media for delivering false information and offering speculation completely void of facts. However, if you listened to CNN and Fox News that morning and afternoon, they were just as bad about speculating motives and search details. Some of the things I was listening to on those two stations on XM Radio were embarrassing theories that were based on zero fact. It was awful.

You could certainly make the argument that Twitter has forced broadcast news stations to change their way of reporting the news. That may be true, but it certainly isn’t right. They are losing their credibility while trying to beat a medium which it probably has no hope of competing with.

The future of social media

I’ve thought Facebook would have some staying power, mostly because people have uploaded their lives on that site for years. The utter failure of Google+ shows that Facebook won’t be replaced. If it goes away, it will be because it has run its course.

Twitter was the social media outlet which I felt had the most unpredictable future. Not anymore.

Not only was it proven to be a great source of information during the manhunt, police and FBI actually used it to identify the suspects and pass the news about Boston’s shutdown on Friday morning.

Twitter will never have the user base that Facebook does. It has its own language which some people won’t understand or have the patience to learn.

However, for those of us on Twitter, I’m not sure if we can ever go back. The information is out there so quick and it gives everyone a voice. The accuracy will never be perfect, but I would say it has improved as people learn the sources that can be trusted for accurate information.

Meanwhile, will avid Twitter users ever use broadcast TV as the main source of breaking news? Highly unlikely.

CNN and FOX News won’t have to adjust their full focus to entertainment like ESPN has done in recent years, because they still have an audience for non-social media users. However, as more people turn to social media for their news, the ratings are going to plummet for those news stations.

Like it or not, social media is here to stay. In the future, studies and experts will likely point to April 19, 2013, as the day it secured its future.

Mad Ramblings

• I’ve seen some criticizing the police’s efforts during the manhunt. Personally, I thought they were awesome. They took their time and took no chances. In the end, they caught him.

• Anyone thinking these two losers were framed is insane. If they were innocent, why the heck were they throwing bombs at police during a chase Thursday night???

• For those that didn’t see David Ortiz’s now famous speech in a pregame ceremony at the Red Sox game Saturday, check it out.

Big Papi is awesome! And for those that thought his comment was inappropriate and lacking class, lighten up. One fucking comment isn’t going to hurt anyone.

• Safe to say from these spring game attendance numbers the state of Alabama loves its college football!

• Richie Sambora did not rejoin Bon Jovi in Los Angeles on Friday as some were predicting. I’m not surprised, and frankly, I think the only way he returns is if he begs Jon to take him back. Not looking good.

• The NFL Draft, one of my favorite events of the year, is this week. For those that don’t know, I ran my own mock draft website in college. I love the draft.

This isn’t a sexy draft because there aren’t a lot of top-notch quarterbacks and skill players. However, the linemen and defensive players are pretty stellar.

I’m anticipating a lot of trades on Thursday, which should make for an exciting night. Can’t wait!

Bear Down and Keep the Faith!


About Joshua Buckley

I used to be a Sports Editor. Now I'm the Media Relations Manager at the Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center.


One thought on “How Twitter secured its future during Boston Manhunt

  1. great analysis Josh….remember when you did your first XML database for satellite tracking? That was a first then and still relevant today. Proud of you Son! Dad

    Posted by JWB | April 22, 2013, 8:55 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: