Something that’s been fascinating me over the past few weeks during all the weather weirdness has been how incredibly valuable Twitter has been in keeping track of everything that’s happening. The #seatst (Seattle Twitter! Storm! Team!) and #pdxtst (Portland Twitter! Storm! Team!) tags were the single best sources for moment-by-moment information during the snowstorms, #waflood is still running strong for tracking flood info, and last night I was reading about an #earthquake in California just minutes after it happened. I’ve been enjoying Twitter for day-to-day trivialities and quick bursts of drivel that wouldn’t be worth making a full formal post for, but it’s Twitter’s growing usefulness as a crowdsourced quick-response news channel is mindblowing.

Of course, I’m far from the only person noticing this trend, and there’s a neat article at Publishing 2.0 (which I found via a #waflood tagged tweet from Evan Calkins this morning) looking into the creation, evolution, and use of the #waflood tag over the past few days.

The discussion about journalism’s future so often focuses on Big Changes — Kill the print edition! Flips for everyone! Reinvent business models NOW! — that it’s easy to forget how simple innovation can be.

Sometimes all you need is a few Tweets, a bunch of links, and some like-minded pioneers.

That’s how a quiet revolution began in Washington state Wednesday. Four journalists spontaneously launched one of the first experiments in collaborative (or networked) link journalism to cover a major local story.

But it gets better. Those four journalists weren’t in the same newsroom. In fact, they all work for different media companies. And here’s the best part: Some of them have never even met in person.

It’s a great look at how the collaboration allowed the journalists and their respective news organizations to stay on top of the stories, and put together stories and information pages that were far more comprehensive than if they’d each stuck to their own individual “old media style” resources.

The Washington link projects should serve as models for the entire news industry. They show that collaborative linking draws readers, is easy, and costs nothing more than time (and not even much of that).

Seth said the December snowstorm link roundup was on the homepage for three or four days — but it was the site’s most-trafficked story for the entire month.

[…]

This is the power of collaborative news networks. By forming a network, newsrooms can discover not just a greater volume of news, but a greater volume of relevant, high-quality news than one person, one newsroom, or one wire service could alone.

Compare the Washington group’s great waflood link roundup to a Google News search for “Washington flood” — I know which one I’d rather have as a resource if I lived in that area.

Neat stuff. Even though I’m “just” a consumer, not a journalist in any sense, and not involved with or affiliated with any of these organizations, I’m fascinated by the effects of the evolving connections that technology is making possible between the media and the public, and within and among the various media organizations themselves.