The 4th Estate: The “Miracle on the Hudson” brought to you by Twitter

Today, we take a look back at one of the the first major news events broken in the “twittersphere” – the emergency landing of US Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson River in Manhattan, New York which earned it the name “Miracle on the Hudson.” Bystanders tweeting their observations of the landing broke the news 15 minutes before the mainstream media.

On January 15, 2009 the Airbus 320 departed from New York’s LaGuardia Airport en route to Charlotte, North Carolina. Shortly after its departure, it struck a flock of Canadian Geese causing its engines to fail and the plane to lose power. The plane’s pilot  Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger was recorded reviewing the options for an emergency landing with air traffic controllers, but soon informed them that he would not be able to land at any nearby airports. Sullenberger’s last words to air traffic controllers were “We’re going to be in the Hudson.” Three minutes after losing power the plane touched down safely in the river. Sullenberger was praised for remaining calm throughout the emergency landing and for ushering all 150 passengers and five crew members to safety.

This feat was not only newsworthy because of its landing, it quickly became an example of  the power of new media over old media. FlightStats, a global flight tracking website showed the US Airways Flight 1549 as arriving 26 minutes late but still en route to Charlotte. At the same time New Yorkers with smartphones and Twitter accounts captured the dramatic landing as it was unfolding.

Below are the photos and tweets that reported this piece of breaking news.

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Screen Shot 2014-02-24 at 9.48.08 AM

The first recorded tweet of the incident from Jim Hanrahan four minutes after the plane went down.

Credit: Trela Media/Associated Press

Credit: Trela Media/Associated Press

US Airways Flight 1549 is seen descending shortly after its take off from LaGuardia Airport.


Credit: Janis Krums

This photo, taken by Janis Krums on his iPhone and shared on Twitter, is one of the first recorded images of the evacuation. Krums was on a New York commuter ferry that was diverted to pick up the stranded airline passengers. His image was eventually shared on so many blogs and news outlets that it caused the TwitPic service Krums used to become temporarily unavailable for most of the rest of the day.

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Social media’s ability to share information instantly broke the news about the “Miracle on the Hudson” as it was happening. What other newsworthy events have you seen announced first on social media?

The Collaborative Services Team

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