Last week, we experienced an earthquake here in the D.C. region. Actually, the event, originating in Mineral, Va., was felt all along the East Coast. For many of us around the ENC office, it was our first experience with an earthquake. In fact, by the time a good portion of the ENCers realized what the rumbling was all about (probably around the same time we felt the whole building sway), the earthquake was over. One of the most interesting results of this violent tremor, however, was how the people affected found information. You see, social media are really shaking up how we get news.
Immediately after the earthquake, there weren’t any news stories immediately posted online. What was immediate were the thousands of tweets coming across Twitter. Within seconds, we knew that tweeps from North Carolina to New York had felt the quake. Of course, within a few more seconds, mobile data loading became a futile effort. Now we knew what had happened, and we knew where it had been felt. But we wanted to confirm the details: Was it really that big? Where was the epicenter? What’s the damage? And that’s when the ENCers turned to the radio.
But herein lies a significant shift in the way we get our news. Knowing that even the best mainstream media outlets couldn’t possibly have an earthquake story posted online seconds after it was felt, people seeking news are now increasingly turning to real-time services such as Twitter. The Twitter timeline is a low-data, fast and immediate way to get information about specific search terms or from sources you trust and care about most. But the mainstream media still play an important role in communication. Even though you might see a friend tweet about a hostage situation at a bank, you’d likely look for more information on CNN.
Trust, but verify became a well-known adage around the Hill during the Cold War, and it’s applicable today in the era of emerging digital and social media. We trust the people we follow and find on Twitter, maybe we even rely on it as a go-to-first news source. But in the end, we still turn to professional journalists to verify the facts.
These are exciting times. New media are emerging constantly, and as strategic communicators, we immediately look for the best ways to leverage these technologies for our clients. We also find ways to integrate them into our personal lives. But for now, mainstream media still mean something as a trusted source of information in our lives, even if we do augment that information flow with tweets, posts and checkins. How have your media consumption practices changed in the last 10 years? Do you think mainstream media will always stick around, or will they evolve into something ultimately crowdsourced? Tell us your thoughts in the comments, on Twitter and on Facebook.