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Carrie Brown-Smith
University of Memphis
@brizzyc
#MEMSTORM: TWITTER AS A
COMMUNITY-DRIVEN BREAKING NEWS
REPORTING TOOL
APRIL 2011
HEIGHT OF THE STORM
• #memstorm impressions reached 1.4 million
• Over 200,000 Twitter accounts were reached
• 0.01 percent of all tweets on Twitter were tagged with #memstorm
• **Source: Aaron Prather, local technology entrepreneur and CEO of startup StiQRd
RESEARCH QUESTIONS
• How did the hashtag come into use in Memphis as a way of reporting on the storm?
• What are some of the uses & gratifications of Twitter use during a breaking news situation
such as #memstorm? What motivates the public to participate?
• How is this new system of “ambient journalism” affecting local journalism? What kinds of
ongoing role can journalists play in this increasingly participatory, always-on news
environment?
AMBIENT JOURNALISM/PARTICIPATORY
JOURNALISM
• News today is all around us, all the time, often held in our hands in the form
of a mobile device, but we are also not simply receivers of this news but also
contributors to it as we go about our day and share observations and
information with the world. - Alfred Hermida
METHODS
• Content analysis of 1639 tweets tagged with the #memstorm hashtag during April 2011
storms
• Interviews with prolific hashtag users and local journalists
• Survey
• Participant observation
R1: How did the hashtag come into
use in Memphis as a way of
reporting on the storm?
LOCAL TECH ENTREPRENEUR AARON PRATHER
PRESENTS AT IGNITE MEMPHIS
PRATHER:
FOXSTORM VS. #MEMSTORM
THE BACKLASH
BE NICE, SOME SAY
R2: What are some of the uses &
gratifications of Twitter use during a
breaking news situation such as
#memstorm? What motivates the
public to participate?
KEY FINDINGS
• Sharing news and information is, not surprisingly, a key motivation for using Twitter/the
hashtag.
• Direct observations/eyewitness accounts is most popular, followed by more general
information e.g. watches and warnings.
NEWS AND INFORMATION
Tweet Was… Number in sample
Witnessing/Direct Observations 239
Sharing general news/info 46
Includes link 10
From newspaper 4
From television 9
From undetermined source/other 22
From NWS or independent 1
Retweet was… Number
Witnessing 45
News/Information 317
Includes link 23
From newspaper 21
From television 180
From undetermined/other 18
From independent/NWS 75
#MEMFLOOD LATER THAT YEAR
KEY FINDINGS CONTINUED
• Connecting with others/building community is another key motivation for using the
hashtag.
• Related: Sharing feelings, expressing fears, etc.
• Joking around
• Asking questions/seeking help
• Talking about Twitter/the hashtag/Foxstorm vs. Memstorm
• Praising journalists for their storm coverage
CONNECTING WITH OTHERS/BUILDING
COMMUNITY
• “I feel like I have company, a community, and we are all going through something
together.”
• “It gives a sense of comfort to be able to talk to other people, because I am so afraid of
tornados.”
• “Twitter has a huge advantage over traditional sources because it creates more of a
community. Everyone is looking out for everyone else during these severe weather
events.”
JOKING AROUND
ASKING QUESTIONS
• “Wondering what #memstorm and #memtraffic is like in midtown since I have to go to
work.”
• “We have people [in our restaurant] concerned about Hernando. Anyone know is
Hernando is going to be in any trouble at all? #memstorm”
• “Sirens at work. Can anyone give me an update on the Germantown/Collierville area?
#memstorm”
How is this new system of “ambient
journalism” affecting local
journalism? What kinds of ongoing
role can journalists play in this
increasingly participatory, always-on
news environment?
ROLE OF JOURNALISTS, IN BRIEF
(SURVEYS/INTERVIEWS)
• VERIFY
• AMPLIFY/CURATE
• SHARE INFORMATION USING NEW DISTRIBUTION CHANNEL
• ENGAGE WITH AUDIENCE
• PROVIDE LOCATION-SPECIFIC INFORMATION
IN APRIL 2011, STILL MOSTLY ONE-WAY,
BROADCAST MODEL
Tweets Number
News/information 280
Total replys 5
Total retweets 38
Of other journalists 31
80/20 BROADCAST/ENGAGEMENT DURING
STORMS; 60/40 NORMAL DAY
RETWEETING WITNESS PHOTOS
WHEN NON-JOURNALISTS WERE ASKED THEIR
VIEWS ON ROLE OF JOURNALSIM:
• “Journalists can participate by interacting. If they aren’t interacting and just dishing out
140-character bites of news, the advantage is gone and the viewer might as well be
reading a news app or watching the weatherman flip his wig. The talkback factor is
invaluable.”
• “The TV stations in New York are now saying, Tweet us a question, and we will ask it on
air. I’ve been telling media here, you know, just use Twitter to ask questions and use
Twitter to get information you need. Clearly [journalists] are needed. Clearly their jobs are
not going away. Clearly they have the responsibility to report non-biased, factual,
checked-out, verified information, but that doesn’t mean they have to break [news] all the
time. Their job has to be, we may not be first all the time, but we have to be right.
Somebody make break that Whitney Houston died, unconfirmed, because they may know
it somehow, but that’s okay, the media has to be okay with that, they have to be, we are
trying to verify.” – head of a local marketing firm
VERIFY (NOT A TORNADO)
NEW IN MARCH 2012
CONTACT:
Carrie Brown-Smith
University of Memphis
carrielisabrown@gmail.com
@brizzyc

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Brown

  • 1. Carrie Brown-Smith University of Memphis @brizzyc #MEMSTORM: TWITTER AS A COMMUNITY-DRIVEN BREAKING NEWS REPORTING TOOL
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  • 6. HEIGHT OF THE STORM • #memstorm impressions reached 1.4 million • Over 200,000 Twitter accounts were reached • 0.01 percent of all tweets on Twitter were tagged with #memstorm • **Source: Aaron Prather, local technology entrepreneur and CEO of startup StiQRd
  • 7. RESEARCH QUESTIONS • How did the hashtag come into use in Memphis as a way of reporting on the storm? • What are some of the uses & gratifications of Twitter use during a breaking news situation such as #memstorm? What motivates the public to participate? • How is this new system of “ambient journalism” affecting local journalism? What kinds of ongoing role can journalists play in this increasingly participatory, always-on news environment?
  • 8. AMBIENT JOURNALISM/PARTICIPATORY JOURNALISM • News today is all around us, all the time, often held in our hands in the form of a mobile device, but we are also not simply receivers of this news but also contributors to it as we go about our day and share observations and information with the world. - Alfred Hermida
  • 9. METHODS • Content analysis of 1639 tweets tagged with the #memstorm hashtag during April 2011 storms • Interviews with prolific hashtag users and local journalists • Survey • Participant observation
  • 10. R1: How did the hashtag come into use in Memphis as a way of reporting on the storm?
  • 11. LOCAL TECH ENTREPRENEUR AARON PRATHER PRESENTS AT IGNITE MEMPHIS
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  • 17. R2: What are some of the uses & gratifications of Twitter use during a breaking news situation such as #memstorm? What motivates the public to participate?
  • 18. KEY FINDINGS • Sharing news and information is, not surprisingly, a key motivation for using Twitter/the hashtag. • Direct observations/eyewitness accounts is most popular, followed by more general information e.g. watches and warnings.
  • 19. NEWS AND INFORMATION Tweet Was… Number in sample Witnessing/Direct Observations 239 Sharing general news/info 46 Includes link 10 From newspaper 4 From television 9 From undetermined source/other 22 From NWS or independent 1
  • 20. Retweet was… Number Witnessing 45 News/Information 317 Includes link 23 From newspaper 21 From television 180 From undetermined/other 18 From independent/NWS 75
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  • 24. KEY FINDINGS CONTINUED • Connecting with others/building community is another key motivation for using the hashtag. • Related: Sharing feelings, expressing fears, etc. • Joking around • Asking questions/seeking help • Talking about Twitter/the hashtag/Foxstorm vs. Memstorm • Praising journalists for their storm coverage
  • 25. CONNECTING WITH OTHERS/BUILDING COMMUNITY • “I feel like I have company, a community, and we are all going through something together.” • “It gives a sense of comfort to be able to talk to other people, because I am so afraid of tornados.” • “Twitter has a huge advantage over traditional sources because it creates more of a community. Everyone is looking out for everyone else during these severe weather events.”
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  • 29. ASKING QUESTIONS • “Wondering what #memstorm and #memtraffic is like in midtown since I have to go to work.” • “We have people [in our restaurant] concerned about Hernando. Anyone know is Hernando is going to be in any trouble at all? #memstorm” • “Sirens at work. Can anyone give me an update on the Germantown/Collierville area? #memstorm”
  • 30. How is this new system of “ambient journalism” affecting local journalism? What kinds of ongoing role can journalists play in this increasingly participatory, always-on news environment?
  • 31. ROLE OF JOURNALISTS, IN BRIEF (SURVEYS/INTERVIEWS) • VERIFY • AMPLIFY/CURATE • SHARE INFORMATION USING NEW DISTRIBUTION CHANNEL • ENGAGE WITH AUDIENCE • PROVIDE LOCATION-SPECIFIC INFORMATION
  • 32. IN APRIL 2011, STILL MOSTLY ONE-WAY, BROADCAST MODEL Tweets Number News/information 280 Total replys 5 Total retweets 38 Of other journalists 31
  • 35. WHEN NON-JOURNALISTS WERE ASKED THEIR VIEWS ON ROLE OF JOURNALSIM: • “Journalists can participate by interacting. If they aren’t interacting and just dishing out 140-character bites of news, the advantage is gone and the viewer might as well be reading a news app or watching the weatherman flip his wig. The talkback factor is invaluable.” • “The TV stations in New York are now saying, Tweet us a question, and we will ask it on air. I’ve been telling media here, you know, just use Twitter to ask questions and use Twitter to get information you need. Clearly [journalists] are needed. Clearly their jobs are not going away. Clearly they have the responsibility to report non-biased, factual, checked-out, verified information, but that doesn’t mean they have to break [news] all the time. Their job has to be, we may not be first all the time, but we have to be right. Somebody make break that Whitney Houston died, unconfirmed, because they may know it somehow, but that’s okay, the media has to be okay with that, they have to be, we are trying to verify.” – head of a local marketing firm
  • 36. VERIFY (NOT A TORNADO)
  • 37. NEW IN MARCH 2012
  • 38. CONTACT: Carrie Brown-Smith University of Memphis carrielisabrown@gmail.com @brizzyc