The shooting broke out at 9:30 this morning in a school in Winnenden, a small town north of Stuttgart. The incident reached newsrooms at 10.30 am. Just under an hour later, a resident from the town was giving her account live on FRANCE 24. So how did we find her? Thanks to Twitter.
An amazing example of what Twitter has to offer breaking news journalism. Here's what happened:
9:30 am - shooting breaks out.
10:38 am - the first newswire hits newsrooms. A 25-year-old man is said to have fled after killing at least ten people in a school. FRANCE 24 journalists log on to Twitter Search to look for residents in the town.
11:00 am - we find Zellmi, a German Twitter-user who says his girlfriend lives in Winnenden and that she doesn't dare leave her office. Email or phone number not mentioned.
11:08 am - we find Zellmi's name (Matthias Zellmer) on Skype. He answers us immediately and gives us his girlfriend's name (Natali Haug) and phone number. We call her, she's at work in Winnenden, a town of around 30,000 people, 20km north of Stuttgart. She tells us that helicopters are flying overhead and that she's too scared of crossing paths with the killer to leave her office. We can hear the ambulance sirens in the background. Reluctant at first, she finally agrees to appear on the channel.
11:30 am - special broadcast on FRANCE 24. Natali is interviewed by our presenter on our English channel.
It's not the first time that Twitter's helped with breaking news (other examples include the Amsterdam plane crash, and the cricket terrorist attack in Pakistan). In the case of this shooting, using the website made the process faster than ever. Just fifty-two minutes between the incident being reported and an account live on the channel. The future of participative journalism looks bright!