One of my new blog readers asked me to comment on the social media interactions related to the recent Tucson shooting tragedy. It seemed that within minutes after the obviously deranged gunman was taken down, tweets started flowing. My observations;
- Tweets quickly seemed to coalesce around these categories; expressing horror and concern for the victims-especially Rep. Giffords, political comments ( Sarah Palin, gun control, border control, yadda yadda) and the emergency response.
- I did not see tweets from the emergency response agencies early on. But, then again I didn’t really expect to. This was an epic event for any fire or law enforcement agency, and I’m sure they were just a tad busy. BUT, it sure would have been great to have seen a few tweets noting the response effort and basic facts early on. Guessin’ they just didn’t have enough people at the scene to quickly organize information dissemination for the SM time zone.
- Scene reports from witnesses and reporters painted a pretty good picture of what was happening. Even though some of the reports of the numbers of victims and perps were slightly different, most tweets were pretty darn close to the final tally and sequence of events. This reflects the chaotic nature of an evolving community disaster, which means all information needs to be considered tentative rather than definitive until proven otherwise. It also shows that even though specific facts may have been foggy, the observations painted this crystal clear picture; a gunman had slain and injured over 10 victims, including a congresswoman in a public place, the gunman had been subdued alive, a large EMS/fire response was in play, including medical chopper transports, large PD deployment and immediate national repercussions.
- Internationally recognized news organizations like NPR and Reuters wrongly reported the death of a national figure. Oops…. I can’t help but wonder if they felt pressure to “get the scoop” with sketchy information because of overwhelming demand for instant news.
- Lots of discussion about whether the inaccurate death reports should have been removed from Twitter news sites, or simply corrected and left in place. I’m not one who thinks anything posted on the web can really ever be removed. But, I do think it can be, and should be, referenced and corrected ASAP.
- Very early on, reports indicated to me that this was most likely the work of a mentally unbalanced individual, not a terrorist act. The ongoing investigation and potential trial will reveal the truth. But, I’m sticking with my initial hunch… Sick individual with a gun and a grudge.
- Tweeters – me included- were quick to retweet the death reports from what we considered to be trusted news sources… (I mean REUTERS for Heaven’s sake!) I’m much more wary now.
A few days ago, tweets started coming in for a multiple shooting involving law enforcement officers in my region. While monitoring tweets and news reports I noted a much more cautious approach in how our regional media outlets were reporting the story. They were careful and deliberate in releasing initial news reports, using terms like “preliminary” and “unconfirmed”. In addition, when concrete facts were reported/tweeted/released, the originator of the information was identified or noted as “unidentified”. This clearly signaled the validity of the information. Early on, I tweeted my hope that those reporting (including tweeters) this story would confirm their information from other sources before passing it on (me included). One regional news anchor retweeted my note, obviously mindful of what had happened in Arizona. Thankfully, I did not see any tweets speculating on the condition of the officers.
It seems that an important social media lesson was learned from Tucson. Let’s hope it sticks. Kudos to the NWFire and law enforcement agencies who handled the chaos. Strong work.