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How to use Twitter for local news

Two month ago. Between 9 and 10 in the morning, a big explosion surprise me while I was working at my home office. It was certainly huge because it was far, and still, the vibrations shake my house. What happened? I didn’t know. I was curious and search the Internet, but found nothing.

At 5 o’clock news, I had the explanation. Several miles away, a company was using dynamite to remove the rock. Something went wrong, the explosion was to big and some rocks flew in the air, damaging surrounding houses.

LCN Report (Video) Rock falled near propan tank Credits: left) LCN – right) Le Soleil, Erick Labbé

Story: Dynami-Tech encore dans l’embarras – Le Soleil (french)
Video: Pluie de roches: les détails avec Sébastien Dubois – LCN Video (french)

I had to wait all day to discover what happened and wait till the next day for complete coverage in the newspaper. In this era of blog, Twitter, citizen journalism or microjournalism, we should have faster information. We can do better than that.Twiter Plane Hudson

Proof: when the US Airways flight 1549 crashed in New York’s Hudson river Twitter breaks the news minutes after the event. www.telegraph.co.uk/Twitter-breaks-the-news-again

Janis Krums was on a ferry that rescued people. He used his iPhone to take a picture of the plane and upload it on twitpic. Then, he send the link with is now famous tweet: “There’s a plane in the Hudson. I’m on the ferry going to pick up the people. Crazy”.

twitpic - Hudson Plane

Within minutes the story spread everywhere…with a picture. That’s the kind of speed we are expecting now.

The Hudson River crash demonstrate that it is possible to have fast coverage of events with today’s technologies.

However, for that fast coverage to be useful, we need to define how to use the technology to help people find the relevant information when they want it.

I am not interested in a building fire in Tokyo, but I will be interested in a building fire, a few kilometers from my house (which is in Quebec City, Canada). That’s relevant information for me.

Google News, Twitter or other tools are good. They permit us to spread information or to search for specific information.

However how can We be inform of an event that we are not aware of? We have to wait that someone we are following retweet the information or that it makes the news headline. Probably that we will miss it anyway because it will be buried in the flow of information or in a torrent of tweets .

I suggest that we uses the power of Twitter and hashtags to identify local news.

Let’s create specific hashtags for local news. Hashtags beginning with #news and the name of the city or an acronym. Here are some examples:

  • #newsqc: Local news for Quebec City.
  • #newsmtl: Local news for Montreal City.
  • #newsla: Local news for Los Angeles.
  • #newsno: Local news for New Orleans.
  • Etc.

UPDATE: some readers suggest enhancements:

  1. Airport Code: We can use airport code instead of city name. Ex.: Quebec city would be #newsYQB. I think it is not user friendly. And it works only for city that have an airport (many small cities don’t).
  2. Hierarchical approach: We can define a hierarchical approach. Country, provinces, city. For Montreal City it goes like #news.ca.qc.mtl (Canada, Quebec province, Montreal city).
  3. What I think: I like the hierarchical approach. I am just wondering if it is using too much characters, since we are limited to 140 in Twitter.
  4. Your opinions: What do you think of the suggestions?

For those of you that already use Twitter, you know how to search for a specific hashtag or how to add a column to your favorite Twitter desktop software.

If someone had tweeted: “ OMG! Some dynamite work went bad in Boischatel. Rock flew through the air. #newsqc “. I would have known what happened.

Some could argue that their is already equivalent hasthags: #news and #qc. They are not equivalent. They are used to identify information that deserve bigger coverage than the local residents. We can continue to use those hasthags for news that will interest people living in other city or country.

With local hashtags, it will be easier to find information about local events. It wills also help the traditional media do their job. They can’t be everywhere all the time. Citizen cans.

As explained by Steve Outing in his post: When Twitter beats local news outlets

Something happens locally, like, say, a fire; there’s a lot of smoke in the distance, and I want to know what’s going on. But I visit my local newspaper’s website, and there’s nothing. Ditto for other local news outlets’ websites. Eventually (but not always), a reporter will get around to writing up something and it’ll be posted online.

It’s especially vexing when there’s never any report. Maybe the fire is not big enough to warrant coverage by the newspaper. But I’m still curious what happened. Where do I turn?

Now we have the solution: Twitter.

My point is not to start a debate over citizen journalism or microjournalism. My point is: We can be more effective. We can collaborate. We can use Twitter and hashtag to address some aspects of citizen journalism and satisfy the need for local news.

I read an interesting comment following this article: Citizen photo of Hudson River plane crash shows Web’s reporting power »

  • many of the most incredible news photos happen to be captured by amateurs that were at the right place at the right time – Posted by: mark

That’s right. Let exploit that fact.

If you like the local news hashtags suggestion and think it worth using it? Spread the idea in your blog and on Twitter: “How to use Twitter for local news – @PRESENTability suggest #newsmycityname for local event – http://bit.ly/3vP5mn

More on Twitter and Citizen journalism

Saw on Mashable.com. In case of fire, do not use Twitter.


Read the real story behind this image on Mashable.com


In case of fire:

  1. Get out of the building.
  2. Call 911
  3. Tweet the event using your local news hashtag #newsmycity

You like the local news hashtags suggestion? Spread the idea in your blog and on Twitter: “How to use Twitter for local news – @PRESENTability suggest #newsmycityname for local event – http://bit.ly/3vP5mn

Share with me: What do you think of using specific hastags for local events?

Posted by Denis François Gravel

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