Newspapers adapt: The Statesman uses Twitter to cover the Fort Hood shootings

Who doubted that newspapers would find ways to adapt to the impact of social media? As I write these words, the drama in Texas is still unfolding, as local authorities search for answers as to why a soldier .. or perhaps group of soldiers .. opened fire on the Fort Hood army base this afternoon, killing 12 and wounding 31 adults. President Obama is issuing a statement.

I was alerted to this breaking story thanks to a tweet, was able to quickly subscribe to a Twitter stream set up by journalists at The Austin-American Statesman newspaper for the specific purpose of reporting on this news story and am following breaking reports in a dedicated column on TweetDeck.

Here is how news began to unfold on the @FtHoodShootings Twitter stream, beginning with the very first Tweet published:

BREAKING: Official: At least 7 are dead, 12 injured in Fort Hood’s soldier processing center: #FtHood 

While The Statesman doesn’t appear to have any journalists on the ground, it is reporting on official statements, including that of President Obama, as well as publishing calls for blood donations. It is tweeting as it updates its website, The Blotter, with content that goes beyond what 140 characters can support.

The use of hashtages (#FTHood) allows us to follow not only The Stateman’s stream, but the reaction of the Twitter community at large. It is being used and followed by other news outlets, such as New Jersey’s @StarLedger who are issuing calls for local angles.  Twitter is being used by credible witnesses on the ground (@prettyboyslimm) to help contribute to the evolution of the story (Twitter’s advanced search allows us to validate a Twitter user’s hometown) as they are retweeted by outlets like The Statesman. And yes, it could be co-opted by people with their own agendas, so as with anything, Twitter must be examined with a critical eye.

The Statesman goes to print 7 days a week and provides an electronic subscription-based edition. Founded as the Democratic Statesman in 1871, its circulation is 151 520 daily and 186 219 Sundays.

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