The Eaton Centre food court shootings this past week in Toronto left one person dead and many injured. This was a shocking incident in Toronto, normally known as a pretty safe city to live in. Not surprisingly to me, this story broke on Twitter and went viral very quickly. Global TV called me yesterday and asked to interview me on the role that social media plays in the news today. As a Social Media Specialist, I obliged but knew that they were going to have trouble with what I had to say. They were here for almost an hour with the camera rolling. What ended up airing was a 15 second spot on the 11:00 news last night. Here is what they asked me, what I told them and why they wouldn’t air what I have to say.
Question 1: Are the graphic pictures and videos that are posted in places like Facebook and Twitter disturbing to the general public?
Answer: Unfortunately, I don’t think so. We are becoming a desensitized society where we seem less and less disturbed by graphic images. These images and video are being captured by our peers, not traditional mainstream media and so people believe that the information they are seeing has not been tampered with or sensored in any way. They tend to trust this information. And, the reality is that we live in an attention based society now where people hunger for new content on a regular basis and they have the technology to get at it every minute of the day. They don’t have to wait for the news or a newspaper.
Question 2: What are the social media channels people use to access news?
Answer: For incidences like yesterday, Twitter would have been an obvious choice with YouTube and Facebook playing key roles. People are able to snap images and video and then easily tweet out what they are seeing. Twitter is an online chat where things are happening in real time. It is a very viral tool. The Toronto Blue Jay Brett Lawrie who was at the Eaton Centre at the time was one of the first people to break the story on Twitter. Click here and scroll to June 2nd entries for his comments on the shootings. These tweets would have been seen instantly by his 130K+ followers and people would have grabbed their smartphones, gotten to their computer to get more information or turned on the TV.
It is expected that by the end of 2012, the sale of smart phones will eclipse PC sales. What this means is that you have millions of amateur reporters and photographers walking the streets able to capture images and report on events such as the Eaton Centre incident in real time. This is the only thing they aired in the news last night followed by a report from security saying that people are getting in harm’s way standing around documenting this activity and hindering their work.
Question 3: Are people sitting at their computers accessing the news via social media channels?
Answer: Absolutely. I am at my computer all day long. I have my social media channels open and if something comes across my screen, I can access the information I need using a variety of sources. The police department in this case is updating information about this case on Twitter as are media channels and citizens. If people are using the hashtag #eatoncentre, I can follow a steady stream of information pertaining to this incident. In this case, Police have been asking to see what has been captured in images and video by the public. At the time of this blog post, the police have already made an arrest. Social media at its finest!
At this point, the camera man asked to see how people would have used their mobile device to tweet about the shooting. I pulled out my BB and showed them exactly how someone would have accessed the Twitter or Facebook app on their handheld and sent out a text tweet or image.
The interview continued inside in my office, where they wanted to film me at my computer and watch how I access news. They were surprised to see the plethora of information available to me at my fingertips.
We also discussed the negative side of social media. I commented on people like Luka Magnotta and how important it is that we not share that kind of information online using social media (or any other) tools. We should not be giving these people a platform to share their criminal behaviour and lifestyle and potentially plant seeds for criminal wannabees.
The bottom line for this post is that many of the traditional media streams are struggling to keep pace. And when I see what they did to my interview, it is not surprising that people mistrust them. With social media, you take out the middle man out and hear it straight from the horse’s mouth so to speak – no censoring, no editoralizing. That’s why the celebrities have gravitated to it in droves. They can tell their own story. And that’s what mainstream media don’t want you to hear.
Yesterday, they portrayed social media as the bad guy and a hindrance. They are afraid of its power. I can only hope some senior editors at Global TV watched my whole interview and use it as a self-teaching tool and get with the program!
What do you think? Don’t forget to leave a link back to your own blog if you have one via the commentluv feature here on my site.
Until next time,