Social media and traditional media don’t always get along, and this week was no exception. The LA Times claimed that social media had “spiraled out of control,” while people who used Twitter or Facebook as their primary source of information claimed that social is the only media worth consuming.
It’s a shame, because I think the the tragic events that took place in Boston this week demonstrated how traditional media and social media can work together beautifully.
When I wanted up-to-the-second updates, I turned to the Facebook page for the MIT Sloan class of 2013. Several of my classmates liveblogged updates from the police scanner, staying up all night to keep us all informed. One person wrote, “Turning off the news. By the time the news starts saying there’s no movement, they’re saying there’s movement on the scanner.” Updates were still being added yesterday; there are nearly 1,400 in total.
But when I wanted to know what had been officially confirmed or reported by journalists on the ground, I turned to traditional news outlets. Boston.com, the free website of the Boston Globe, was the best source. It had the best of both worlds: reported pieces and a liveblog that included selected tweets. I also turned to print media on Saturday morning, when I wanted to read a narrative that was written with the benefit of hindsight.
Overall, the experienced reinforced the importance of institutionalized media in our society. Most days, we aren’t on lockdown. Most days, none of my classmates will be glued to Twitter or a police scanner, dedicated to sending me the latest updates. Even if they did, I wouldn’t have time to follow the constant stream of information. We need to maintain strong local media not only for crises like this, but for the news that affects our lives every minute of every day.