Role of (Social) Media in Boston Marathon Bombings
May 24, 2013
May 24, 2013
From the moment of the Boston Marathon bombings to the eventual capture of the surviving suspect, Bostonians and non-Bostonians alike turned toward various forms of media for the most up-to-date information about what was happening in the city. Wednesday night, two panels in Boston discussed the role media-traditional and social-played in the tragic events. SM& Senior Account Executives Amy Derjue and Kate Plourd attended a Boston Globe Insiders event. Moderated by departing managing editor of digital Caleb Solomon, “Inside the Boston Marathon Bombings” featured senior sports producer Steve Silva, local news editor Jennifer Peter, columnist Kevin Cullen, and social media producer Adrienne Lavidor-Berman. The panel discussed the Globe's coverage of the bombings from the dramatic footage caught by Steve Silva to the decisions made in the newsroom during the manhunt for the surviving suspect. SM& Account Coordinators Carol Kerbaugh and Amey Owen attended Suffolk University's Ford Hall Forum “Social Media in the Boston Marathon Bombings,” which explored the integral role social media played in the tragic events that rocked our city. Panelists Garrett Quinn (Correspondent, Watertown TAB and Blogger, Boston.com), Adam Gaffin (Editor, Universal Hub), and Cheryl Fiandaca (Bureau Chief of Public Information, Boston Police Department), and moderator Skip Perham (Board Clerk, Ford Hall Forum) carried an enlightening conversation about how Twitter, Facebook and other social media channels have transformed how news is shared-particularly in a crisis event. Here are the teams' takeaways from the events: 1.The news cycle has changed. We no longer live in a 24 hour news cycle. As Quinn stated at the Ford Hall Forum, “Thanks to Twitter, we live in a 15 minute news cycle…Social media has flipped the sandbox.” Social media has changed the pace in which news travels. People expect instant gratification-quite a change from even just a few years ago when people would have to run home to catch breaking news on television. Thanks to the smart phone, instant access to information is in the palm of your hand, around the clock. Reporters and media outlets have to meet the demand of providing instantaneous news as it unfolds. The Globe's social media producer referred to the Tweets from reporters and stories posted on Boston.com as the readers seeing how the “sausage gets made.” Cullen specifically referenced calling the newsroom and dictating a column that ran online during the day. But he was happier with the piece that ultimately ran in the print edition, calling it more cogent. Traditional media recognizes the value of social media for breaking news, but offers more detail and reflection in the print product. 2.Anyone (and everyone) is a “reporter.” With a click of a button on a smart phone, anyone can take pictures, record audio, and post news updates online. During the Boston Marathon events, thousands of Twitter and Facebook users took to the internet to report the events as they unfolded. Because of this, traditional media has a responsibility to filter through the noise online to report the most accurate information. The Globe was understandably proud of the work done by their professional journalists during the week of high-pressure situations. Lavidor-Berman said that all Globe staff are encouraged to use social media as a reporting tool. Peter reiterated the value of the Globe's sources in verifying information they saw on Twitter and reddit during the bombings and manhunt. 3.Being right is better than being first. CNN learned this rule the hard way. The network came under fire when anchor John King incorrectly reported the arrest of a suspect tied to the Boston Marathon bombings. Releasing news first is not always best during a crisis. Reporting accurate information should always be the priority over reporting the fastest. As Fiandaca, the woman behind the Boston Police Department's Twitter account, said at the Ford Hall Forum, for the department, “Twitter served as a great way to correct misinformation. We enhanced our reputation by putting out reliable and accurate information.” CNN can't say the same. Globe editor Jen Peter told the crowd that on a normal day, being beaten on a scoop is “unpalatable” to her. But during high-pressure situations like the bombing and the events in Watertown, the Globe saw more outlets getting more negative feedback for spreading incorrect information than positive feedback for a scoop. Peter made the decision to “verify, verify, verify,” even if the Globe didn't get it first. The Globe also reported on the arrest that didn't happen. Cullen argued that if we still lived in a traditional media cycle, the bad information wouldn't have been published because reporters would have had the afternoon to work their sources and get it right. The Globe eventually got the correct information-but, as Lavidor-Berman said, we all saw that sausage get made, thanks to the shortened news cycle. 4.Media, particularly social, has the ability to create a sense of community in tragic times. That the hashtags #BostonStrong and #PrayforBoston became trending in the days following the bombings is no coincidence. Social media enabled people far and wide to share in a conversation. Through social media, people offered shelter, food and support to victims and those directly impacted. “People were sharing as a community and grieving online. Social media brought people together. That wouldn't have happened a few years ago,” Griffin said during the Ford Hall Forum. Adrienne Lavidor-Berman and Steve Silva at the Globe talked about shifting the Boston.com homepage from celebratory marathon coverage to a live feed from reporters breaking news from the scene of the attacks. The Globe was also impressed by how their stories spread on social media-people overwhelmingly read the positive stories of people helping each other than stories about the bombers. 5.It is beneficial to break down silos between traditional and social media, especially during crisis reporting. Sports Producer Steve Silva was the first reporter on the scene for the Globe, and he called the newsroom with details. Globe reporter David Abel, currently out on sabbatical, happened to be in the area and also filed a story via phone. The Statehouse reporters rushed to the scene as well, making essentially every beat reporter a breaking news reporter. Peter reflected that all the traditional newsroom silos and competitiveness went out the window with such a huge story to report. At times, social media even became the story when as Peter recalls Reddit miss-accused a missing Brown University student as being a suspect and one the Globe's post-marathon stories was a timeline of the suspected terrorists Twitter feed.