Tweet tweet: a little birdie told me

Where do you get your news from? It’s a simple question with a simple answer. Perhaps you read a daily newspaper. Maybe you watch the evening news every night at six. You might even listen to an all-news radio station on the way to work.

Now here’s the follow-up question: in five years, where will you be getting your news from? Will you still be reading that daily newspaper? You might be … for the crossword.

Judging by recent trends you are probably going to be getting all your breaking news online, and it is going to be coming from Twitter and similar applications.

Since its launch in 2006, the online microblogging social network has skyrocketed in popularity — now with an estimated 190 million registered users across the globe according to the website’s statistics profile.

Picture yourself in Japan during the recent earthquake. The ground is shaking, the buildings are swaying — but you don’t run to safety. Your first instinct is to pull out your phone and get on Twitter to find out what’s going on.

This is exactly what a group of people on a subway platform in Japan did just a few weeks ago.

Why is Twitter so valuable in terms of breaking news? The service is giving users the opportunity to follow verified media outlets, which are updated as soon as any news breaks. 680news may see an accident on the 401 from their helicopter, and ‘tweet’ the information in a matter of seconds. No waiting for the traffic report.

Users can even follow politicians, celebrities, athletes, friends — anyone who has an account set up. The advantage here is that users are getting real-time information straight from the source.

Granted, Twitter is not without its flaws. However, even with gaps in the system, Twitter’s influence in major events cannot go unnoticed: one such instance occurring in Toronto’s 2010 mayoral election.

There was a lot of controversy surrounding Rob Ford, where his team set up a fake twitter account as a way to further his campaign. Whether or not the account had a positive impact in his victory as mayor is debatable, but it undoubtedly influenced the election.

As with any form of media, Twitter will only be as reliable as the people using it. Morton urges that using Twitter effectively requires a balance in accuracy and timeliness.

Over time, Twitter’s developers will undoubtedly find ways to curb any malicious use for their product.

If the website continues to grow at the rate it has been growing, I believe in five years a newly refined Twitter will be the number one source for the world’s breaking news. As for now, however, it’s still a relatively new concept, especially for older generations. To them, it still takes a back seat to that daily crossword.