I woke up this morning, retrieved my damp copy of the Globe and Mail from the porch, and read the ongoing coverage of violence in hockey, which covered the front page. Normally I would have driven to the Y and switched on CBC Radio One – catching part of the news report – but skipped the gym this morning out of a need to babysit my sump pump during the deluge that has turned the Greater Toronto Area into a soggy mess.
As a result, it wasn’t until I logged onto Facebook and Twitter that I learned of the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan. My friends and contacts were linking to mainstream news coverage, photos, videos and more. Because of the timing of the disaster, it was not in the Globe; and because of my own neurosis, I didn’t drive to the gym and hear a CBC report.
This is not the first time that social media “news” has trumped traditional news outlets for me. I remember when the plane landed on the Hudson River and transfixed us all. At the dentist’s office later that day, I remarked on it to the hygienist, who had no idea what I was talking about. The radio station blaring in the office played top hits, not news.
To me, social media not only speeds delivery of the news; it also personalizes it. After I posted a link to the New York Times article on Facebook, my friend from Tokyo, Kaz Amemiya, president of the IABC Japan chapter, commented that he was all right, but that a nuclear reactor was in danger. Twitter friends in the U.S., Canada and Europe chimed in with reports about their relatives in Japan. Later, I learned that Google had reacted to the tsunami with a Person Finder tool.
The days when we gleaned all of our timely information from the morning paper and the six o’clock TV news are long gone. We still rely on the mainstream media for their coverage of worldwide events, but it’s our own networks that often alert us to it. Individuals on the ground then augment that coverage on Facebook and Twitter. It’s the combination of citizen journalism and traditional coverage, along with the immediacy of social media, that I find fascinating. What about you?