Sunday, April 21, 2013

Between A Rock And A Hard Place (Or A Tweet And The TV)

Ever watch America's Next Top Model with a box of Thin Mints, wishing you could dominate the runway yet wondering why you can't stop inhaling Girl Scout cookies? 

That's kinda how I feel on Marathon Monday. Long after Lelisa Desisa and Rita Jeptoo crossed the finish line, I settled in on my sofa and began to listen to a live stream of the Boston Marathon as I finished a few things for work.

I then saw a tweet. Then a second. With the third, I turned on the TV.

For the next several days, I sat paralyzed by fear, filled with sadness and angered amid all the confusion. 

Contributing to that confusion were news reports on-air and social posts online. 


Of course two of my greatest passions (not to mention sources of income) were being criticized and hailed during this time of crisis.

As an online community manager, I emailed my boss to prevent any Facebook posts, tweets or pins from being shared by our clients.

No one wants to be that brand.  

As a former newsroom assignment manager, I took a step back and refrained from my own online activity so I wouldn’t contribute to the onslaught of unconfirmed reports. I learned my lesson early on - I once worked for a local affiliate that reported a local politician's death...before she was dead. I never want to be that station, that tweeter.

(BTW, look who's laughing now. I don't work holidays.)

But now everyone is on this bandwagon. And I mean everyone.

Every network, affiliate, radio station, and print outlet has some kind of online presence.

But that's not all. We now have citizen journalism. Twitter and Instagram have become the microphone and camera for Joe Schmoe. 

Yet in the wake of tragedy, all accountability is tossed out the window. Our need for instant gratification tends to erase all common sense. Instead of being mindful, we want to be first. Rather than acting responsibility, we crave notoriety.

For over a decade, I listened to police scanners. Allow me to make something clear: what you hear on a scanner is not confirmed.

Here's another tip: not everything you read on the internet is true.

Shocking, I know. But it's not just the average social media user ignoring these simple truths. Journalists are just as guilty.  

I too disappointingly fell into the retweet trap.

After this blunder, I became more cautious. I waited to share. And for the sake of humanity (dramatic but true), I waited to post.

Broadcast news is a fantastic tool in getting information to the masses. And as technology evolves, so do the methods in which we consume information. I remember Internet Chat Relays and blogging when blogging wasn't cool. I wanted to integrate social media strategy into local news coverage, and newsroom management scoffed. 

Yet last week, I watched network news on television, live streamed local Boston affiliates on my tablet, tweeted from my phone, and did fact-checking from my laptop. As a community manager, this is what placed me between a rock and a hard place.

I still believe in the power of social media. And I know the strength broadcast journalism continues to hold. But my friends deserve truth and honesty. And the victims of the bombings deserved better than what I saw online. Our country deserved better.

I can only control my own actions. And keeping track of my own social media platforms (plus that of my clients'), is tough enough as it is.

But reporters, producers, citizen journalists and friends: if and when a tragedy of this magnitude attacks our nation again, we must remember we are all neighbors. Let’s take care of our community by acting responsibly on and offline.


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