Chelsea Explosion, Twitter, and Citizen Journalism

So there I was, about to head to bed at the end of a restful 3-day weekend, and I'm exploring the twitter posts I'm getting.  Probably not the best thing I could be doing, but, I surfed to Jeremiah Owyang's twitter and found this tweet (from Chris Messina):

Holy crap! Massive #explosion outside our hotel room on 29th St (NYC)... I think everything's cool, but holy crap!

The post had originated only moments ago.  I went to CNN, the New York Times, and (which had timely coverage of the fire at the Coach building earlier this year) and NOTHING could be found anywhere. NO one was talking about it.

Just as I was starting to have an existential twitter crisis- are these SMS tweets real and believable?- There was another message:

yep, we're all cool, but there's a ton of firetrucks out there. Here's the scene:

Check out the photo- it's a microstory, an article unto itself, with the notes on the photo serving to tell all the important pieces.  This probably happens a hundred times a day, and most of it is not "news" per se. However, in today's New York, this was news, even at 1am.  It turned out to be an explosion caused by a pipe bomb outside a theater in Chelsea [according to the New York Post- thanks NYTimes CityRoom Blog]. 

What does this mean for the future of News?

  1. Community and connectivity, when mixed together, can be powerful and authentic sources of "breaking" news.  We'll never listen to the radio again, because if our nets are wide enough, we'll have people "reporting live" from everywhere we care about.  Twitter makes this relatively easy because you can "follow" strangers or friends of friends relatively easily.
  2. Word of mouth is the same as it always was, but now "holy cow, did you see that, honey?" is heard not just in the apartment, but within an entire user community, with zero geographic boundaries, and with dramatically increased speed.  Should major news outlets subscribe to the global twitter feed?
  3. Skepticism of citizens breaking their own news is not going away- credibility of sources remains important and we will continue to look to journalistic organizations to investigate and add depth to stories.  While the NY Post story, last updated at 9:30 or so this morning, still had no photos, it did reveal that the explosion was a pipe bomb, and that the location of the blast was outside a theater owned by Sopranos star Michael Imperioli.  I could never have known that "in the moment."
  4. What we learn and when we learn it is increasingly a function of our social connections and not our digestion of the mainstream media.  The "alternative media" function well here, as they are driven by relationships between users-this sphere is made up of  blogs, RSS, FaceBook etc.  These media reward contribution, participation, and interconnection.
  5. Social graph based search, as described by  Robert Scoble, might or might not be the future of search- but it sounds awful lot like the information filter we're all going to need. Social networks  model trust relationships, so who you are connected to will play a significant role in the information you receive and its signal/noise ratio.