May 16, 2011 2 Comments
Last Thursday, I officially graduated from Temple University’s School of Communications and Theater with my Master of Science degree in Communication Management. Even if the ceremony felt anticlimactic compared to my undergraduate graduation from Boston University seven years ago, it was still a great afternoon.
One of the highlights was the commencement speaker – NBC News President Steve Capus (shown in the fuzzy picture to the left). Among the topics he discussed were how this was a fine hour for journalism. There has been a lot in the news lately – the tsunami that ravaged Japan, the uprisings in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Syria, the long-awaited capture and killing of Osama Bin Laden and the start of the 2012 Presidential election campaign, for starters. And Capus – admittedly tooting his own horn a bit – praised the work his staff has done to bring those stories to their viewers.
His speech also got me thinking about how the tools of journalists have changed just since Capus’ ascension to his current post in 2005, let alone since he graduated from Temple 25 years ago. I’ve written here before about how there is more of a rush to get the story first. And tools like Twitter allow NBC and other news outlets to do just that.
I first was alerted to Bin Laden’s death by Twitter. It was late on a Sunday night. I had just finished my participation in the weekly #hcsm (Health care social media) tweetchat on Twitter, and was preparing to shut off TweetDeck and call it a night, with a work day looming only a few hours later. All of a sudden, tweets started popping up in my feed stating that President Obama would speak to the nation shortly. It started as a few tweets posted by reporters and media outlets that I followed, and got retweeted by many others. When the media outlets confirmed that the address was to announce the killing of Bin Laden, the same thing happened. The media outlets used the 140 characters allowed by Twitter to get a brief message out to the masses and get them to tune in to their TV broadcast or read their website/publication. In short, it worked exactly the same as some ordinary joe sharing a link to a TMZ story on their favorite celebrity.
Twitter even plays a role in the events themselves. An otherwise anonymous IT specialist became a global celebrity when he happened to be in Abbotabad, Pakistan and on Twitter during the Bin Laden raid and inadvertently live-tweeted the most significant event to date in the War on Terror. During the uprising in Egypt, protesters used Twitter to share photos and accounts of the event, just as they did two years earlier during the Iranian Election protests.
This doesn’t include people sharing videos of the “celebrations” after Bin Laden’s death on YouTube and the sharing of content on Facebook that ensued after these major events.
The way news is delivered is changing to reflect the new tools available. The journalists and media outlets that can use those tools the best will be the ones who shine the brightest when big news occurs.