Breaking News – Is Social Media Taking Over?


Social Media is becoming increasingly popular for people to discover the news, as the current generation become more disengaged with traditional news outlets.

There are some huge stories that broke on Twitter before hitting the headlines, including the deaths of Whitney Houston and Osama Bin Laden as well as the announcement of the Royal Wedding. Twitter is now the place for journalists to update the public on current news before they have the time to write a full article on the matter.

So where do people get their news from?


You can see from this chart that Social Media accounts for over 25% of all sources for breaking news.

When a plane crashed into the river Hudson, a guy on Twitter was on the case first:

 And believe it or not, the person who first reported Osama Bin Laden’s death was his next door neighbour, who tweeted to complain about the noise, unknowingly tweeting about one of the biggest news stories of the decade:

Reddit has also become a hugely popular source for breaking news. When the tragic Colorado shooting took place, the quickest reports came from Reddit, as posts from people who were actually in the movie theatre started appearing along with an entire comprehensive timeline of police activity.

The problem may fall in the accuracy of breaking news on Social Media, as the number of times celebrities have been trending on twitter due to their apparent deaths, does pose the question of how we can filter out the fake headlines.

Journalist and director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, Tom Rosenstiel has pointed out that:

“Many journalists may feel intimidated or in competition with new media such as social networking, but rather than aiming to win the “race” to break news, it’s important journalists remain accurate. Everyone can be in the breaking news business now, but speed is the enemy of accuracy.”

A great example of this is when blogger, Adam Jacobi, tweeted an inaccurate reporting of the death of Joe Paterno, a legendary Penn State University football coach from the CBS Sports Twitter account. The false reports were rapidly dismissed by the Paterno family and Jacobi was fired:

I think there is a balance between breaking news on Social Media and other sources such as the television. Social Media is great for on the spot breaking news headlines, but to ensure accuracy and to delve further into the story, then other sources are necessary.

Incorporating other social media forms such as news is becoming increasingly popular in the private and public sectors alike. For example;, which is a dentist in Daventry/Northamptonshire, is doing a great job in managing patient reviews of the dentistry on the NHS Choices website.

How much do you rely on Social Media to provide up to date breaking news and do you believe everything you read online?

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  • Anna Francis

    Thanks Ami 🙂