Building bridges before a disaster

Is Twitter the future of breaking news?

A post by David Erickson has a fantastic collection of how people (as opposed to the nada phrase "Citizen Journalist") covered the Minneapolis bridge collapse. Be sure to browse that.

Erickson is an Internet marketing and PR guy in Minneapolis. He first got wind of the collapse via a Twitter post from an area blogger. After observing how people and big media in town covered the news, he has several observations. Among them:

The eyewitness blog posts, the on-the-scene photography, and even the handheld and cell phone videos complete with their jerky motion and blurry, overcompressed images, all contribute far better than the mainstream media, to giving you a more accurate sense of being there. The videos, especially because of their amateur look, gave the viewer a powerful sense of the frantic chaos on the ground.

The tools are there for people to cover breaking news as it happens and if they are there, they may be able to do it quciker than any mainstream media via mobile devices or available broadband Internet connections.

But the platforms of choice for people reporting news, such as flickr and YouTube, are not very good for breaking news because of the lag time before those items are actually searchable. They are there, but you have to know where.

I suspect that's also the culprit in this experiment, instead of not enough SEO hokum, but that's another story.

That has me thinking that's where social networks (loosely defined) could help in locating the photos, videos and blog posts. The organization that figures out how in a local content to aggregate this material quicker and better, and, as Erickson notes, separate the quality from the crap will have a powerful news mechanism.

Those are bridges that have to be built before the next collapse.

Erickson said, except for Minnesota Public Radio, people with the stories were viewed as resources, not story-tellers or newsgathers.

If you're a media outlet, is aggregation part of your disaster coverage plan?

Are there good examples of aggregating breaking news content from disparate sources and leverage that information through good organization, presentation and editing? I'd like something that produces better quality results than Google News and includes photo and video sharing sites and blogs as well as "news" sites.

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