Reddit, the social news site that's often thought of as a place for online humor, offbeat personal stories and conspiracy theories, showed another side in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings.
While dazed people scrambled to find a place to stay and food to eat, Redditors mobilized to gather essential resources for victims and their families and to supply reliable news.
Because each user post on Reddit is voted up or down by site members (and moderated by designated experienced users), it's fairly easy to find the most useful information on the site. Reddit is organized into "subreddits" — broad categories such as "inthenews" or "technology." If users type in a search term on the home page, Reddit will display relevant subreddits from which to choose.
Along with firsthand reports from those involved in a crisis, Redditors also provide running news updates with links to both live broadcasts and transcripts of press conferences.
For the Boston disaster, the updates appear at the top (meaning they've been up-voted by members) of the subreddit "inthenews" and now total six sequential posts. Redditor Jellyfish, the moderator of the current update, has included links and his own comments to call out unverified information, a service that can help prevent the spread of misinformation.
For instance, the Associated Press report that "explosives at Boston Marathon were in pressure cookers inside duffel bags," is accompanied by a comment from Jellyfish.
"This is unverifiable information due to the anonymity of the source, but the accuracy of the AP so far leads me to believe they do, in fact, have a credible inside source," he said.
The moderator urged readers to submit all photos and videos taken in and around the bombing area to law enforcement.
"If you have ANYTHING; a photo of yourself eating breakfast in Copley, instagrammed photo of Copley prior to the race beginning, a panorama of the finish line, a picture of your friend or family member as they finish the race — all of it is useful or potentially useful," Jellyfish wrote.
Comes with instructions
Another characteristic that sets Reddit apart from traditional news sites is that its moderators and posters usually include instructions for readers.
Those with footage and photos from the scene were given the local FBI and police. Redditors were also cautioned to avoid giving money to Facebook groups, and to donate instead to the Red Cross. [See also: How to Avoid Boston-Bombing Online Scams ]
Reddit may be an unconventional news source, but it has proven it's a reliable and helpful resource in emergencies.