Twitter and the Bangalore Blasts: Part IV – Twitter vs the mainstream media

A series of bomb blasts was detonated in Bangalore last Friday, killing two people and injuring several others. Mukund Mohan, a technology entrepreneur, who was working nearby, decided he would provide updates on what was happening using Twitter, a micro-blogging tool that enables people to publish short, 140-character, updates online. Prompted by some interesting comments, this is the fourth and final post in a series looking at how reporting on Twitter compares with more traditional methods of journalism. The first post is here, the second is here, and the third is here.
“There is very little mainstream media coverage of this news,” one twitterer noted.
In a blog post, Mukund Mohan argued that the coverage in India was not very helpful:

“Local news providers were absolutely useless in getting information out. There was more nonsense and speculation on the motive and the reason for the blasts than real facts. Television did work, but it was useless information that was being transmitted.”

Living here in the UK, it’s obviously difficult for me to comment onIndian media coverage of the event, but I did track the BBC’s coverage.
This was not deemed to be a significant story in the great scheme of world events on Friday by many news organisations. (Although a similar and more deadly attack on Ahmedabad on Saturday did mean there was some additional attention over the weekend).

The BBC website paid little attention to the story and the online article was only updated twice during the day. This meant that for several hours the website suggested that all the bombs had been detonated ‘within a span of fifteen minutes’ when it had quickly become apparent that the bomb blasts took place over a longer period of time.
The story had no eyewitness accounts and was only furnished with some basic details from the police. An updated story on the website included a quote from the government but still had no reaction from anybody on the ground.
Another online article was published the day after informing us that an eighth unexploded bomb had been found by the police.
The BBC World Service did regularly report on Bangalore throughout the afternoon. Chris Morris was covering the story from New Delhi and at one stage we heard from a local journalist in Bangalore.
Twitter, though, in the capable hands of Mukund Mohan, was still providing more detailed coverage than the BBC.
Twitter will not always be useful when reporting news. It’s worth remembering that these blasts occurred in India’s IT capital where the likelihood of somebody being aware of Twitter and how to use it was high. This won’t be the case for every story and in many parts of the world the lack of an IT infrastructure precludes the use of such tools to do reporting.
But this news event shows that where Twitter is being used by people like Mukund Mohan, journalists would be foolish to ignore it. After all, Mohan didn’t merely use Twitter to break the news, he used it to report breaking news.