First Read

A first take on enterprise IT technology news and events.

Twittering Hurricane Ike

CNN's Rick Sanchez is using Twitter as a tool to report the news. It flips the Me-to-Many Twitter model I had imagined. Twitter's real power is Many-to-Me.


Just before 2 p.m. Sept. 12, in Morgan's Point, Texas, CNN correspondent Rick Sanchez received a message while he was doing a live update on the approach of Hurricane Ike.

The sender asked Sanchez whether her grandparents, living in Spring Valley, Texas, an inland Houston suburb, should evacuate ahead of Ike. Sanchez, still on the air, asked CNN meteorologist Chad Meyers, who located Spring Valley on a map of Ike's predicted path and explained the dangerous wind conditions in that neighborhood and the possibility that victims could be stranded without food and power for days.

He then gave viewers the bad news -- traffic patterns in that part of Houston probably meant it was already too late to evacuate. The sender's grandparents were best served to hunker down in Spring Valley.

It's a particularly poignant example of what Twitter is allowing Sanchez to do -- communicate with hundreds of sources and relay their stories to the public.

Sanchez picked up Twitter a week earlier when covering Hurricane Gustav from New Orleans. He needed a way to solicit local reaction from hundreds of sources regionwide. Like CNN's iReport, it worked. Sanchez began receiving Tweets vividly reporting the scene from across the Gulf region.

(Twitter, where were you eight years ago? I could have used you when the editors at the Asbury Park Press used to send me to supermarkets to solicit local reaction like a Little Leaguer selling M&Ms to finance the team's new scoreboard.)

Sanchez used Twitter throughout the weekend, and CNN reports that the segments using Twitter showed a ratings boost, making for the most-watched news program all weekend and the No. 1 cable program Sunday night.

It was so successful CNN decided to launch a new show, Rick Sanchez Direct, (3 p.m. EST, weekdays) built entirely around Twitter. Sanchez communicates back and forth on the air with viewers and sources via Twitter.

Twittering is now all the rage at CNN, where it is being used by several on-air correspondents and broadcasts and heavily promoted.

Many to Me

For months now I've been scratching my head trying to cite an enterprise use for a tool like Twitter. Well, it was sitting right under my nose.

I've been using Twitter at eWEEK (my account and the eWEEK News account), but it has been primarily a one-way street -- me telling a few lonely souls what eWEEK's news staff is up to. But I never thought of it as much of an enterprise tool.

Part of the problem is that I have a hard time calling this kind of journalism an enterprise operation (Where's our production line? our supply chain? our compliance factors? the things that make up an enterprise?) and I only saw Twitter as a one-way street, Me to Many.

Of course the street runs both ways and Sanchez now has nearly 14,000 followers feeding him news and quotes -- Many to Me.

I still don't know how many industries would benefit from cheap, unqualified or verified communication from the hordes, but journalism can.

My following isn't large enough to serve as any real source of information to gather and report, but at least I can avoid the supermarket.