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Does Twitter break the news?

Whitney Houston will long be remembered as one of pop's greatest divas, but it is the way news about her death broke that has commentators talking at the moment.

Mashable (February 12) journalist and writer Samantha Murphy said that reports Ms Houston had passed away were first published on social networking site Twitter.

"Twenty-seven minutes before mainstream media broke the news of Whitney Houston's death on Saturday night, the story was on Twitter," she commented.

And while the original user has yet to be contacted by anyone within the media, images of @chilemasgrande's update have been displayed on the tech blog.

Also, the time of the tweet shows that it was online well ahead of the official update that was shared by The Associated Press.

Rumours that Ms Houston accidentally drowned in a bathtub may have been tweeted by citizen-journalists too, rather than official news outlet TMZ, according to the February 12 article.

But what is not in contention is the pace that news can travel online, with current estimates suggesting that some 2.5 million tweets and retweets took place within 60 minutes of her passing.

Social analytics group Topsy Labs own data showed that more than 1,000 tweets per second about the Grammy award winning artist went live in the short period of time after her death.

Reflecting on the role social media plays in breaking news a number of web broadcasters at Mashable said that while tragic, the online response demonstrates a shift away from traditional news sources and production toward a more interactive format.

Evidence that Twitter is very much a part of the cross-media news platform may also be drawn from tweets on Osama Bin Laden's death that came out before an official statement was released, as well as updates on natural disasters such as the 2011 tsunami in Japan among other world events.

Posted by Aimee McBride