BBC and RTE use Twitter to cover Belgium grenade attack

21 Mar

News outlets are turning to Twitter to get breaking news out to their audience. But the use of Twitter is going beyond simple updates for some companies. Recently a bus in Belgium was attacked using a grenade and guns. During the attack the news outlets RTE and the BBC both took to Twitter for the story. But the companies took different approaches to how they used the social networking tool.

RTE Tweeted about the events in Belgium and linked readers to the full story. The BBC on the other hand, had multiple updates as the event unfolded. They posted as news came out and even asked eyewitnesses to contact them through Twitter with any information that may have been relevant. While the BBC’s method takes more advantage of the media tools at hand, it is also risky. People like to embellish and exaggerate events, which is why knowing who the sources really are and attributing quotes to people’s real names, is so critical. It is difficult to determine if a source is reliable through a medium like Twitter. Still, if there is no other clear way to get information it makes sense to take advantage of the people who are on the scene already and who are willing to help. Since the BBC does ask for more contact information, it is plausible that they could assess the reliability of the person Tweeting them by calling, or looking into their story. RTE was smart to link directly to their  story through their tweets but could have Tweeted more information along the way as the BBC did.

Both news stations were smart to take advantage of Twitter to get their stories out, but they could also both learn something from the other. The need to be taking advantage of all of the options such as the linking feature and the ability not only disseminate information but also to gather information.

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