Citizen and Pro Journalists Converge on Twitter as Empire State Building Tragedy Unfolds

Locally trending keywords on Twitter in midtown Manhattan at 12:30 p.m. included #empirestatebuilding, "bystander" and "coworker." Source: Trendsmap

Moments after the Aug. 24 shooting outside the Empire State Building that left two dead and eight people wounded, Twitter emerged as the go-to source for citizen journalists, well-wishers, the traditional media and all real-time sharers of news and developments. One Associated Press tweet, for instance, was retweeted over 2,600 times. 

The tweets using the trending term "Empire State Building" piled up quickly, and those on the scene with mobile devices functioned as nonprofessional reporters. even posted this message at the top of its homepage: "Are you there? Send pictures, video."

Twitter is not the only social network that comes to the fore in tragic events such as these. Check-ins on Foursquare and Facebook are particularly useful. "If for some reason you checked in either at the Empire State Building, a coffee shop close to it, or at a totally different location around 9:53 a.m. in New York today, now your friends and family who may be living in a different city at the least know where you were last," says Priya Ramesh, director of social media for CRT/tanaka.

"In PR we all have client work today, but if you truly want to see the power of citizen journalism and how news unfolds on Twitter, follow the Twitter trending topics 'Empire State Building' and 'NYPD' to get a firsthand experience of the power of social media," says Ramesh. As of this story's posting, each of those terms were still trending in the United States.

Follow Bill Miltenberg: @bmiltenberg