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When Hillary Clinton stumbled, Twitter got the scoop

CNN’s Brian Stelter calls the clip a game-changing piece of “eyewitness video.”

Twitter / @zgazda66

When it comes to breaking news, the speed of social media can be hurtful — think Reddit users falsely identifying who bombed the Boston Marathon in 2013. But sometimes, social gets the story first and gets it right.

That has big consequences for professional journalists, CNN’s Brian Stelter said on this week’s episode of Recode Media with Peter Kafka. He said a tweeted video of Hillary Clinton’s pneumonia-induced stumble on Sunday, following an unscheduled departure from a 9/11 memorial ceremony, had a huge impact on the media and underscored weaknesses in the Clinton campaign’s media strategy.

"This was a ‘pictures or it didn’t happen’ sort of situation," Stelter said. "I wouldn’t call it ‘citizen journalism,’ necessarily — I think the phrase ‘citizen journalism’ is kind of complicated — but it is eyewitness video, and that eyewitness video changed the story."

The "Reliable Sources" host was preparing to go live just hours after the story broke online. He said he and his team treated an early tweet from Fox News’ Rick Leventhal with "appropriate skepticism."

"He was relying on a single law enforcement source," Stelter said. "And he didn’t witness it himself and he hadn’t heard back from the campaign yet. Fox made an interesting choice to go with the information without hearing from the campaign first."

Ultimately, about half of that day’s planned "Reliable Sources" hour was scrapped to cover the incident, which the Clinton campaign confirmed shortly after 11:00 am ET. But it was half an hour later, thanks to this tweet from Twitter user Zdenek Gazda, that the story really exploded:

"The Clinton campaign has now acknowledged they should have been more forthcoming earlier in the day," Stelter said on the upcoming podcast. "It would have helped a lot if Clinton was willing to travel at all times with a protective press pool, the same way a president does, when there are a small number of journalists with this person at all times accounting for their whereabouts, specifically because of incidents like what happened on Sunday."

To hear more of Stelter’s conversation with Peter, listen in the audio player above or subscribe to Recode Media on iTunes, Google Play Music, TuneIn and Stitcher.

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