The Bad News Network: Twitter, Facebook and Liveblogs
Yesterday was not a good day for the District of Columbia and its neighbors. And, like on many other bad-news days, the Internet was there to tell the story of Metro's two-train collision in real time.
Somewhat to my surprise, nobody seems to have been Twittering from either train. But that status-update site quickly filled with updates about the event from people watching it online and on TV -- some of the first photos to emerge on the Web were screen captures of TV news reports.
Facebook updates took a little longer to reflect the news -- the site definitely operates in a slower gear than Twitter -- but became the easiest way to verify that friends who live on the east end of the Red Line were alright (this was before I realized that the two trains were heading into the city, not out of it).
Meanwhile, local blogs -- The Post's Get There and Washington City Paper's City Desk but also such volunteer efforts as DCist and We Love DC -- published several thousand words' worth of updates, starting within a half hour or so of the collision and refreshed every few minutes for much of the evening.
(Metro's own status updates, as seen on displays and heard in announcements in stations and as sent to riders' phones via text messages, were much less informative. I realize that you don't want to freak out people trying to get home with all the gory details, but it's still a stretch to label a train wreck as "mechanical difficulties.")
Barely an hour after the collision, a colleague noted that Wikipedia had already noted the event. Today, that page has grown to include an extensive account of the accident, thoroughly linked to news accounts and background material after hundreds of revisions.
It's amazing how quickly the Internet can surface and synthesize our knowledge of an event, isn't it? But it's a lot more rewarding to watch this happen when there's good news involved.
June 23, 2009; 10:29 AM ET
Categories: Digital culture
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