International Space Station Evacuation; How News Spreads on the Net

iss-astronauts-14jan15At about 7:00 am Eastern Time the news media began to report about an ammonia leak at the International Space Station necessitating the evacuation of part of the station. I have always been intrigued about how news is disseminated in today’s fast-paced internet-driven news delivery.

When I became aware of it through one my RSS feeds I loaded up the Google news feed and tracked how the news made its way through the search engine. Keep in mind that is an unscientific examination and that Google results vary based on geography. However, I was curious and wanted to track it.

The news started as written “sound-bites,” just quick statements of “astronauts have been evacuated from the US section” to the Russian section. The first sites quoted unnamed sources at “Russian news agencies.” The outlets were nothing more than news aggregators based in Europe. Yes, I am aware of the NASA Twitter feed and I was monitoring it as well. My curiosity was focused on how Google disseminates the different news sources.

The first substantial reports came out of Great Britain – the Mirror and Sky News about an hour after the news started “buzzing” around the Internet. I believe that I started seeing the British news outlets because I was using Google in English mode. Without doing an extensive investigation I believe the news spread from the Russian media into the English media. By 9:00 am, Eastern Time, the US news media started to report on the incident. This was about two hours later.

Interestingly, at least for me, is that BuzzFeed News, a few CBS and Fox local affiliates and the Wall Street Journal were the first US news outlets to show up on my version of the Google news feed. As of a few minutes ago, at 1:00 pm Eastern Time, the Google news feed did not show any CNN results which were surprising to me as I expected them to be making this story a priority as they love to sensationalize aircraft disappearances. Granted, I was not watching live television and they may have been focusing on television rather than there online site. Their website “breaking news” did not seem to have a report on it either.

The latest report from the NASA feed is that all of the astronauts are safe and that it was a “false alarm.”

As for my curiosity?

This is an ongoing news event and thankfully, it appears that no one has been injured and is unlikely to. Therefore, I will keep monitoring how Google handles the indexing. My interest lies in how search engine optimization works within in Google. How does the Google algorithm handle emergent news events? I do not expect to get a definitive answer but it gives me an opportunity to see it first hand at work.

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