About this entry
What if Twitter existed in 1992? How would social media help tell the story of Rodney King and the Los Angeles Riots? Those were the questions we asked when we were brainstorming features for 20th anniversary LA Riots coverage. What we came up with was @RealTimeLARiots, a historical replay on Twitter of the Los Angeles Riots. Each tweet corresponded to the actual date and time in history, often down to the minute.
http://twitter.com/RealTimeLARiotsDespite Twitter having a trivial feel at times, our team held the story to the highest standards of journalism. We spent weeks researching and documenting April 20 to May 9, 1992, down to the minute.
After recreating three weeks in a spreadsheet, we started composing tweets, with each 140-character message reviewed for accuracy, quality, tastefulness, engagement potential, multimedia and timeliness.
To keep the story developing inside the Twittersphere, we used the proper web syntax, including hashtags and usernames.
Also, despite having the hindsight of 2012, each tweet was composed based on what we knew at that exact moment in history, letting the story unfold naturally as if it were actually 1992.
To accompany the feed, and to process media (dug up daily from the NBC4 video vault) cleanly within Twitter, we paired the account with Twitpic and Twitvid:
Younger users told us that this was the first time they realized just how scary the Los Angeles Riots were, a feeling that is hard to create through traditional reporting mediums.
@leroytellez: "@NBCLA @RealTimeLARiots A great recap of such a sad event. I was 12y/o back then couldn't grasp the social impact of what was going on."
For other users -- especially those who grew up in Los Angeles -- the account was a powerful way to remember such an important anniversary.
@RealTimeLARiots: "@NBCLA You guys did an amazing job with this feed. So interesting and educational. Brought back many memories. Thank you."
Some users actually created new Twitter accounts with "1992" as a suffix. They tweeted along with the story, as if they too were actually there.
The account posted 334 tweets to 3,288 followers. We received more than 2,500 retweets and 1,000+ favorites.
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