Two Twitter users in San Diego, California, have been posting updates on wild fires sweeping the south of the state.
Users Nate Ritter and Viss have combined eyewitness updates on the state of the fire with useful info for locals, like evacuation procedures and meeting points, showing just how well this device can be used in a news environment.
Yes, there are limitations: you have to know about Twitter before you’d come across something like this, and (as Ritter’s last Tweet says) at some point your Twitter correspondent may have to go to bed.
Still these guys, who are also posting photos of the fires to Flickr, seem to be providing more frequent updates than the mainstream media – bar local radio station KPBS, which has got in on the Twitter action too.
Not only do KPBS’ Tweets feature on their main site as a ‘Real-Time Updates’ section, but the outlet goes even further in showing off Twitter’s scope using alerts to direct readers to local authority announcements, a url for a Google map of the fire, traffic updates and addresses for evacuation centres.
Figures are frequently the focus of these alerts and these are later fleshed out into full-blown news pieces.
KPBS obviously sees the one service complementing the other, but other news organisations may disagree: why ‘leak’ breaking news through Twitter first? Because a local readership will return to the site again and again for the public information aspect of the service and stay for the more in-depth news analysis.
Whether KPBS uses Twitter on a day-to-day basis or has rolled it out for this special news event I’m not sure, but I’d like to know whether other papers are employing the device and in what ways?
How does the editorial process work and what are the limitations/freedoms for journalists of writing news alerts like this?