Breaking Tweets Web Site Helps Track Updates about Iran

Craig Kanalley's Breaking Tweets mashup site helps highlight the central role that Twitter has played in revealing information about the election and protests in Iran. 

In an e-mail exchange, Kanalley, who is a journalism graduate student at DePaul University, provided background on the site and its coverage of Iran. He said that on the night of the election, he spent about six hours blogging and following what people in Iran were saying on Twitter.

"I've built a trusted network of sources in Iran that I can go to for credible information," Kanalley said, noting that he's met Twitterers all over the world since launching the site in January. "As soon as the election dispute happened, I immediately went to these users I previously knew about. They've been able to share information and direct me to other credible Iranians who have been tweeting about Iran long before the #IranElection."

He reported on a few key happenings, including one about the SMS (text messaging) system going down in Iran and another about the first deaths that happened as a result of the protests.

Kanalley said Tweeting about this type of information, especially at a time when the Iranian government has placed tough restrictions on foreign journalists, was and continues to be key to disseminating information.

Breaking Tweets' timeline of events can serve as a resource for cutting through the flurry of information. Also check out one of the site's day-after stories, which helps illustrate what the site does best.

Kanalley explained the day-after stories, saying: "That's Breaking Tweets how I originally envisioned it -- telling a story in a traditional journalistic sense, with multiple sources, just through tweets instead of quotes."

Breaking Tweets' editors manually select Twitter messages for inclusion in their stories. The editors treat the Tweets like quotes, weaving the 140-character messages into comprehensive stories on various news topics.

Kanalley and his team work from a "virtual newsroom," as he calls it. The stories often lead with a link to a mainstream media piece and are then followed by a collection of Tweets that are pertinent to the story.

Here are more details about how social media has been used to report on the happenings in Iran.

  • Barbara Iverson

    Barb Iverson specializes in electronic communications, Internet, & new media as tools for reporters. She teaches journalism at Columbia College Chicago.


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