WNYC Hosts Debate on Merits Of Citizen Journalism and Technology

twitter3_091110_mn.jpgLast week’s tragedy at Fort Hood, so close to Veteran’s Day, left the public scared and confused — not only because of the senseless nature of the crime which left 13 dead, but because some of the information that leaked out about the event from the ground turned out to be false.

After US Airways Flight 1549 fell into the Hudson River last year — and the first photo of the event landed on Twitter — people have looked to Twitter to provide first-hand accounts and early information about breaking news. But what if the information from these citizen journalists (if that’s what they are), isn’t accurate?

Yesterday, WNYC’s Brian Lehrer hosted Jeff Jarvis of BuzzMachine and Paul Carr of TechCrunch in a debate about the relative merits of citizen journalism and technology.

After the jump, how the debate unfolded

Carr argued that the biggest source of information that day coming from Fort Hood was from a Twitter user MissTearah, a 30-year old soldier named Tearah Moore, who supplied false information while the event was still unfolding and bodies were being brought into the hospital. For example, Moore reported that alleged shooter Nidal Malik Hasan had died when he was still alive, and repeated misinformation about a second shooter. She also took pictures of the bodies and gave out room numbers of the victims in the hospital, which Carr argued was an invasion of privacy and something a real journalist would not have done.

“Unfortunately, we have this idea that because someone is on the ground…that somebody’s taking a photograph of something or Tweeting from the ground, that’s accurate, that’s the unfiltered truth that the media is somehow going to screw up,” Carr said.

Jarvis held the position that social media like Twitter is still the most powerful resource the mainstream media has during breaking stories, and it falls to the news organizations to make sure that the Tweets they are reporting as facts are accurate. “In this case, I’m not sure that this woman would have called herself a citizen journalist and [if it] would have mattered if she had,” he said. “What we see is a different structure now in which witnesses can share what they see. And that is going to change news. Used to be the news didn’t happen until the reporter got there. Now…the sources publish.”

Listen to “Tweeting Tragedy” here: