When the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings were engaged in a shootout with police, it was the middle of the night and cable news operations were rerunning some of their earlier programming. So journalists took to Twitter to spread the news about what was happening. NJ News Commons Director Debbie Galant told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider that she and many others were getting the latest information from the social networking site.
Galant said she first saw a line on Twitter about the MIT shooting around 11 p.m. and found more information about it on the school’s website.
Those posting information to Twitter include professional journalists and everyday citizens, according to Galant. She said one of the groups sending out Twitter updates throughout the night was BuzzFeed, particularly Andrew Kaczynski who didn’t sleep throughout the night.
Galant said she was listening to the Boston police scanner, which she called fascinating. At 1:30 a.m., Galant said 55,000 people were also listening.
“We were sitting there collectively holding our breaths. There was a time when the cop said to the dispatcher, ‘I don’t know if this is a dumb question, but could we accidentally set off, detonate a bomb with our smartphones?'” Galant relayed. “And she said, ‘Yeah.’ And all of a sudden everybody was like, ‘Oh my god, they’re powering down their smartphones.'”
Galant said she believes the events in Boston represent a paradigm shift in the way headlines are distributed. “I thought this was an extraordinary night,” she said. “Twitter was where it was happening. For at least two hours, everything on Twitter was scooping cable television news.”