Last Thursday a jury in Mississippi handed down a $131 million verdict against Ford Motor Company and in favor of the family of a young minor league baseball player named Brian Cole who died in a tragic accident in 2001 when the Ford SUV he was traveling in flipped over. When an online journalist named Adam Penenberg learned of the verdict from a defense attorney, he waited for the major news organizations to break the story and was surprised to find that there was no coverage of the event. One would think that such a large verdict against an automaker would be newsworthy. Penenberg took it upon himself to report the story. Using his Twitter account and allotted 140 characters, Penenberg told the story in 50 tweets posted over a period of about two hours. At one point Penenberg asked “â€˜Câ€™mon reporters. Am I only one who thinks $131 MILLION verdict against FORD in a product liability suit is news?
This was not the first time that the digital journalist has scooped major news media on a big story. In 1988, Penenberg exposed the fraudulent reporting of Â former associate editor of The New Republic, Stephen Glass. These events were chronicled in a movie entitled “Shattered Glass.”
We’re living in a digital age where information travels quickly making it difficult for any event to go unnoticed. Can you imagine what it would have been like if the Watergate story had been broken on Twitter?