London-based citizen journalism start-up Blottr, which destealthed towards the end of February with a Techrunch write-up and recently announced a round of angel funding, led the news agenda for much of Monday by breaking the day's major UK news story.
First publishing a few minutes after 10am, Blottr broke the news of a bomb alert in London and over the day added pictures, detail and coverage of the events in the square and the controlled explosion carried out in Trafalgar Square around 9am. Sky and the BBC picked up the story around 3 hours later, and Blottr founder Adam Baker told virtualeconomics:
"It was the only full story available of the incident for 3 hours, until Sky News put it as their "breaking" news, followed by the BBC. By this time, everyone discussing the story on Twitter (was) linking to our story, as the main source."
Whether it was really Blottr or Twitter that "broke" the story is therefore open to debate - while Blottr gathered, curated and published news from Twitter on the basis of a tip some hours before any other news outlet, the controlled explosion around 9am was first tweeted about an hour earlier by one user who noted that the bomb squad was inspecting a suitcase, and another eight people tweeted variously that they were in the middle of a bomb scare, that traffic around the square was disrupted or in one case even uploaded a picture of the bomb disposal robot that Blottr later republished. But Blottr make a fair case when they protest that news publishers coming later to the story should have credited them if it was indeed Blottr's coverage that first alerted them to what was going on - it hardly seems plausible that Sky and BBC journalists stumbled across the original tweet from 9am when it was Blottr's coverage getting all the retweets.
In any case, Blottr was first with an actual article that could be used to understand what was going on - it's not really journalism until you can read it to make sense of the situation, and Blottr's team did the heavy journalistic lifting of following up a lead, understanding what a number of disparate tweets meant, verifying the story, securing permissions on the only photo and turning the lot into comprehensible news. Even if the news still breaks on Twitter, for now, I don't plan to keep an eye on all 200m accounts just in case something relevant to me comes up on one of them - but I am keeping an eye on Blottr, waiting to see how often it'll be first with the news.
(Disclosure: some of the Blottr team, notably founder Adam Baker and Community Manager Ravin Sampat, are my old friends and colleagues from localpeople)