How we curated the Norway tragedy: Friday’s horrific bombing and shooting played out in real-time on social media, and our team at Breaking News had its hands full curating tweets, YouTube clips and media reports from both inside and outside Norway.
We posted our first alert at 9:40 a.m. ET followed by 155 updates over the next 24 hours, publishing around the clock on BreakingNews.com, Twitter, Facebook and Google+. Traffic to BreakingNews.com jumped over 300% on Friday, and @breakingnews updates were retweeted thousands of times.
It was our first big story on Google+ — Google removed our +Breaking News account (just like other media brands), but we’ve continued publishing on two of our personal accounts, +Cory Bergman and +Stephanie Clary, tag-teaming early and late updates. Despite Google+’s fast start, Twitter remains our best source of real-time eyewitness updates by a long shot, both in terms of reach and searchability. We spotted tweets from stunned Oslo residents, journalists on the island of Utoya and even the U.S. embassy in Oslo. And over a dozen eyewitness videos appeared on YouTube (we’ve embedded one above), some minutes after the blast.
We also discovered a fake YouTube video of a second explosion — which we did not link — and we avoided early, unconfirmed reports of the suspect’s race. This is one of the reasons why we believe human curation is an important layer over the unfiltered stream of Twitter lists. Rumors spread quickly, and while we don’t always get it right, we’re quick to point out inconsistencies and correct inaccuracies. That said, we’re exploring ways to allow our users to choose between a curated and an unfiltered feed of updates as a story develops.
One of the biggest challenges of the Norway story is the language barrier, and there’s no better tool than Google Translate. We tracked four different Norwegian news sites, refreshing them every few minutes and gleaning new updates through the translator. There were also a handful of journalists — like @ketilbstensrud and @runehak — who were watching live video feeds from Norwegian TV and posting updates in English, many of which we highlighted.
Finally, it was our first big, breaking story using Facebook chat without a corresponding video feed. We embedded the chat on our Norway story page, and people from around the world posted hundreds of messages — most messages of condolences for the families in the middle of such a terrible tragedy.