Electronic media can report on news stories much faster than established media organizations, but they may not have the resources to verify their stories and can contribute to the spread of misinformation. Social media allows citizen reporters to spread news as it happens, but a single piece of mistaken reporting can spread across the globe with amazing speed.
During the events surrounding the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. in 2014, online media provided coverage with amazing speed. The first reports came from social media, as witnesses used Twitter to describe what was happening. Many citizen reporters took to the streets with protestors and provided live streams of the riots and other events following the shooting.
Online media can also be vital for showing more than one side to a story. During the Gaza-Israel conflict of 2014, most traditional news reporting in Palestine was shut down by Israeli military actions, which left only sources inside Israel providing coverage to traditional media. However, many ordinary Palestinian citizens took to social media to document what was happening, painting a frightening picture of what it was like to be caught between two warring factions.
Unfortunately, information and misinformation can spread at similar rates. After the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, a number of amateur sleuths fixated on a missing student, using peculiar online messages from his family to suggest him as a suspect. In the end, the actual investigation identified two brothers as the suspects, but only after the student's family became the recipients of a lot of unwanted attention.