Twitter covering Italian earthquakes: national media vs. social web

I want to share some of my personal reflections on the earthquakes happening in Italy in the past seven days. Now, it’s been a week since a 6.3 magnitude earthquake struck in Abruzzo, at 3.32AM (01.32 GMT, EDT Sunday) killing over 270 people and causing severe damages to several cities. Especially the city of L’Aquila because there was the epicenter (96km northeast of Rome) of the “terremoto” (Italian for the earthquake).

Since I was immediately awaken, first thing was grabbing the mobile and twittering about this (which is not so smart to do if you’re in the middle of strong shakes, but…), and then I’ve realized that only few of us (read 6, and later 7 people) in the Italy were twittering about this live. It was interesting that the social media in this case was faster than national TV and radio stations. Usually, international media houses, e.g. CNN , are 15-20 min behind the social web and networks, while Italian national stations needed more time, let’s say an hour, hour and a half.

You have to understand this from two reasons (not necessarily in this order): 1. life philosophy in Italy (so far as I got it)  is “piano, piano…”, which means “as slow as possible…” – implemented in every aspect of (Italian) life, and 2. political reasons and the premier’s ownership of all National TV channels (and other relevant media). Sounds familiar? Well…You probably heard the controversial story of a scientist in L’Aquila,  seismologist Gioacchino Giuliani claiming that thanks to his research he had foreseen the disaster four days before it have happened but he had been ignored by Civil Protection. Nothing that we’ve never seen before regarding the government and the media and freedom.

Anyways, I was sending tweets from Rome as I was checking if any media online reported about the earthquake, but the fact was that the very few of us awakened by the quake used Twitter to spread the news before any news agencies. In the next few hours Twitter was the only source available to Italian people to share news and information as well as the contact medium for their friends and family in L’Aquila. The next morning and day(s), Twitter, beside other social networks (especially Facebook) was the major information tool to keep updated with the events in the region and spreading the news world wide, because there were aftershocks and minor tremors (still present). After the major quake, Facebook and Friendfeed were the most active social networks with a role of the spreading the current situation, announcing appeals for help, ways on how to make donations, keeping in touch.

Current situation in the Italian twittersphere cannot be compared with the massivness and the noise that happened in Moldova recently, because as micro-blogging tool it presents among Internet users something new. IMHO, it is the matter of time when this social media tool, that’s being mostly used by the academics and IT/social media professionals, will be spread amongst Italian population, the active Internet users of the other social networks.