COLUMBIA — During what was at first reported to be a hostage situation Tuesday in Jefferson City, news organizations and private citizens utilized Twitter to share information of the situation.
According to a Missourian article, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Tuesday, there were 310 tweets tagged as #JCMOhostage, the most common indicator used on Twitter to talk about the situation, which turned out to not include a hostage.
At some points, Twitter was the main online option to update the public about the situation; a few local news sites went down, perhaps because of such high traffic, including ColumbiaMissourian.com.
But other times, it served as a fast-paced frenzy of misinformation. There were tweets saying shots had been fired (they had not), that the situation was in the governor's office (it was in the Governor Office Building) and that it was a confirmed "hostage situation" (though it was never confirmed).
Regardless, Twitter provided a thread of conversation about what was going on, and there wasn't much confirmed information to use. But that meant a lot of information coming through Twitter was speculation or hearsay.
How can the media properly use Twitter in situations of breaking news and when there isn't much confirmed information? Where can a balance be struck between quick delivery and accurate information?