Credibility in the Age of Twitter: A Town Hall on the Marathon Bombing this Wednesday at the Nieman Foundation

It’s been a hectic, stressful, emotional two weeks here in Boston. As some of you know, I grew up in the area — at the top of Heartbreak Hill, which comes at the end of four miles worth of hills that end just before the 21 mile mark. I’m obviously not the first person to say this, but it’s impossible to overstate how integral the Marathon is to the fabric of the region. From grade school through high school, I would hand out water and oranges at the corner of Commonwealth Avenue and Hammond Street.

My family now lives a few miles down the road, just outside of downtown Boston. On April 15, I took my three-year-old son to the annual Patriot’s Day Red Sox game.


First pitch is at 11:05 am — it’s the only game in all of baseball to start in the morning — which means that it typically gets out just as hordes of marathoners are coming through Kenmore Square, about a mile from the finish line. It’s also one of the only games I can go to with my son, who still takes a pretty serious midday nap.

We left the game in the seventh inning — he’s not a big fan of crowds or sudden loud noises, and I was getting worried about a walk-off win (which, as chance had it, is exactly what happened). We climbed on the T at Kenmore Square a little before 2 pm, and there were a handful of marathoners heading home on the train. We talked to one — gave him a high five and told him he should go to sleep, just like we were planning to do.

By 2:10, my son was asleep and I was starting to do some work on my computer. Fifty minutes later, I got an email from my wife, who works for Boston magazine: “Two bombs went off at Marathon Sports. Many injured. Sirens everywhere around here.”

I spent the afternoon listening to police scanners and tweeting out what I thought was relevant information.

Three days later, I was getting ready for bed when I got an Emergency Alert text message from MIT: Shots had been fired on campus. I got in my car and drove to the site of the where Officer Sean Collier was assassinated — and then followed the police to the site of a carjacking, and then to Watertown, where I tweeted updates until 6 am the next morning, when I finally went back home. (I wrote about that night for The New Yorker.

I still haven’t processed everything that happened to me, my city, and my workplace — and I’m not sure when I will. It’s easier for me to think about what the events of the last two weeks will mean for journalism — and that’s the topic of an event this Wednesday at Harvard’s Nieman Foundation titled “Timing, Trust, and Credibility in the Age of Twitter.” It’s a town-hall type discussion, and I’ll be there along with:

* Boston Globe metro editor Jennifer Peter
* Boston Globe reporter, 2013 Nieman Fellow, and former Palm Beach Post colleague David Abel
* Boston Police Department chief of public information Cheryl Fiandaca
* WGBH’s “Under the Radar” host Callie Crossley
* Washington Post engagement editor David Beard

There’ll also be some interesting people in the audience, including:

Andrew Kitzenberg, the Watertown resident who took some of the only pictures of the shootout between the Tsarnaev brothers and police
Hong Qu, a Nieman fellow developing a program to extract credible, real-time info from Twitter
Todd Mostak, a researcher at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab
Dana Forsythe, editor of WickedLocal’s Watertown site

The event is free and open to the public, but you need to RSVP if you want to come. It’ll also be live streamed.


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3 Responses to Credibility in the Age of Twitter: A Town Hall on the Marathon Bombing this Wednesday at the Nieman Foundation

  1. R.A.Winter says:

    What an incredible experience for you and your son!. Loking forward to your participation in Wed.@niemanlab Town Hall. Have you read this excellent view of that day’s SM by a British law enforcement official?
    Keep up the great writing!

  2. Noeleen says:

    I love imagining you & your son out like that – how precious that time together.

    But it was horrific, & must have stunned you when your wife emailed you. Amazing it’s yesterday’s news now. What the hell just happened, you know?

  3. Twyla says:

    Your son is very cute!

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