The news is social

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.

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Let’s try that one again, shall we?

Hello, and welcome to my new home in the blogosphere. I hope to make this attempt at blogging better organized and focused than my previous attempt. I may still attempt to update that one from time to time. But this blog will definitely be more professionally oriented, and will discuss issues and news in the area I am most interested in – communication.

First, some background. I started my career as a newspaper reporter. But the state of that business – along with my desire to work something resembling normal hours – led me to try to get out of that field. Of course, no sooner then I made this decision then the economy go to hell. So while still working in the newspaper business, I enrolled in the MS in Communication Management program run by Temple University’s Department of Strategic and Organizational Communication. Almost two years later, I am three classes and a Master’s Project away from earning my graduate degree.

During those two years, I also have landed a pair of roles in healthcare communications – the first with a small hospital in Darby, PA, the second (and current) one with a startup pharmaceutical development company in Horsham, PA. These positions grew my interest in developing messages and marketing communication tactics to help people live healthier lives. At the same time, I also became interested in political communication, and how both major parties (and the occasional quixotic third-party candidate) try to frame issues and debates in their favor.

In both of these seemingly very disparate areas, four rules of communication hold true:

  • Know who your target audience is and what will best get its attention
  • Make sure you get your message out there first and not let your opponents define you to their advantage (and your disadvantage)
  • Make your message as clear and concise as possible (in political lingo, make it fit on a bumper sticker)
  • Keep articulating it consistently

I have also recently launched a website, and you can follow me on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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