Sifting Circumstances and Shifting Sources

Congress on your corner. 
As the U.S. turned its collective attention to Arizona today, I was struck by how some news services were gathering and distributing information on the circumstances, victims, and shooter. On television, most of the coverage was comprised of speculation, assumption, and—at times—inaccurate information. Citing “sources close to the investigation” and “some of my contacts in law enforcement,” reporters on the scene, and on telephones thousands of miles away, kept misinforming their audiences during the early hours of news breaking about the attack on U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords.

As I caught up on the story, I turned to Twitter to find out the truth. Because I have carefully curated who I follow, I was able to trust the information I was getting from them, and their sources. The most active, and by far most reliable, stream of information came from NPR’s Social Media Desk Senior Strategist Andy Carvin. He was tracking the story on Twitter as well as other services, continually adding updates to his Storify account of the event. Through careful curation, he could gather first-hand information from Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, and other online outlets to add numerous perspectives and valuable context to unfolding events.

These days, I find Twitter, specifically the people I follow, a much more reliable place for news than any other source. I have a relationship with them. I know their biases and tendencies. I know their expertise. I trust them. I am confident that I gain a better perspective on any breaking news story on Twitter than I do flipping from channel to channel on cable TV. While I will never turn to a single source of information, I will favor Twitter’s vast variety of available experts when I need to quickly sift through a sea of speculation.

The circumstances that prompted today’s post are stunning, infuriating, and tragic. I ache for all those involved. Speculation about motives, blame, and justice are for other places on the Web. But compassion should be everywhere, no matter your political views. Please spend a moment close to the ones you love, and I hope to see more compassion on the ‘morrow, on the Web.
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Author  Stephen R. Fox