Blogs feed information frenzy on Mumbai blasts

SINGAPORE Thu Nov 27, 2008 3:01pm IST

A guest of the Taj Hotel is comforted by an unidentified person outside of the front of the hotel in Mumbai November 27, 2008. REUTERS/Arko Datta

A guest of the Taj Hotel is comforted by an unidentified person outside of the front of the hotel in Mumbai November 27, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Arko Datta

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SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Bloggers across Mumbai fed live updates of the action after Islamist gunmen launched waves of attacks in the heart of India's financial capital, highlighting the emergence of citizen jouralism in news coverage.

Some, including a blogger named Vinu, were furiously uploading photos of damage from the attacks that killed at least 101 people and injured 287, with scores of foreigners, including Westerners trapped in luxury hotels.

Images of the attacks also surfaced on photo-sharing website Flickr.

Some bloggers provided running descriptions and commentaries from near the action, while others vented emotions.

"I've been tweeting almost all night, too, from Mumbai. Upset and angry and bereft," said businesswoman Dina Mehta on her blog, www.dinamehta.com/blog.

Twitter, the wildly popular "micro-blogging" site where users communicate with short "tweets" of 140 characters or less, saw intense activity on Thursday.

Within five seconds at 0748 GMT, 80 messages were posted. Posts included offers of help for the media and updates on the situation.

"One terrorist has jumped from Nariman house building to Chabad house - group of police commandos have arrived on scene," one tweeter wrote.

Twitter came in for some criticism as well in the blogosphere for divulging too many details that could prove helpful to the gunmen holed up in the hotels with their hostages and who may have been been monitoring blog sites.

"It's a terrorist strike. Not entertainment. So tweeters, please be responsible with your tweets," said one blogger identified as primaveron@mumbai.

Several local Indian news channels were reported to have carried a live feed of the twitter updates on the Mumbai attacks.

Trying to aid India's weak public services, Mumbai Met Blog, (www.mumbai.metblogs.com) posted the telephone numbers of hospitals on its website, encouraging readers to donate blood.

Blogs such as Mumbai Help (mumbaihelp.blogspot.com), offered advice to those with friends and family in the city. "Suggest you avoid calling. Lines are bound to be screwed."

New media analyst Cherian George said events such as the Mumbai attacks and the London bombings have spotlighted the emergence of citizen journalism and user-generated content.

"If the event is highly dispersed and affects very large numbers of people, it would be physically impossible for a very large news organisation to keep track of every development," George said.

"Those kind of events show the great potential for all these user accounts to be valuable to the mainstream media," he said.

(Additional reporting and editing by Bill Tarrant)

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