Iran situation highlights strengths, weaknesses of Twitter

Duncan Riley - Author

Jun. 15 2013, Updated 7:39 p.m. ET

Although the article is syndicated from ReadWriteWeb, the New York Times had me choking on my breakfast today (in surprise) with a story that highlighted that Twitter was doing a far better job covering the situation in Iran than CNN. You can see our earlier coverage of #CNNFail here.

Others are naturally jumping on the Twitter is better bandwagon, and perhaps to a degree fairly, because CNN has been asleep at the wheel. But the split isn’t quite so black and white; Twitter is excelling in some areas, but not others.

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Twitter has again proven itself as the superior outlet for eyewitness reports in real time. There’s no argument that for the latest from Iran, Twitter is the place to get it, and the information is far richer that is being provided on CNN, and one could argue many other leading news site. As I write this post, Twitter is reporting a huge increase in violence on the ground, and stirrings of a possible revolution. I can’t even see a mention of the protests on, the NY Times mentions unrest but it’s not the lead story, and FoxNews has as its third story a crackdown in media inside of Iran. And that’s just three sites.

When recognizing Twitter as the best outlet for the latest on the ground, you can’t ignore that the data coming from Twitter is raw, unfiltered, and at times difficult to follow. You can narrow down who you follow to key people which helps, but likewise that’s a challenge. The better consideration is Twitter as an old fashioned raw news wire from which others can compile the latest news. Take for example the excellent live blogging at The Huffington Post that primarily uses Twitter for its coverage. Anyone can jump straight in there and get a structured view of what is happening in a far more accessible fashion. This isn’t to take away from Twitter, but to recognize its value as a primarily source for use in secondary reporting, something surprisingly none of the mainstream media outlets seem to have embraced in covering Iran. You can follow both, but the secondary reporting is far more accessible.

Twitter has proven itself as THE place to get the latest from the scene; that the mainstream media are ignoring it while new media is embracing it only goes to emphasize why many of them are on borrowed time.

You can follow the latest from Iran via the Twitter hashtag #iranelection or #iranrevolution


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