I was out enjoying a concert yesterday evening, so didn’t hear the terrible news about the Boston Marathon bombing until I checked my Twitter feed at home.
This is far from the first disaster in the age of social coverage. We’ve had cameraphones for over a decade. Facebook for nine years. Twitter for seven. The London riots were reported comprehensively from the ground. A plane landed on the Hudson River in New York, and civilians broke the story.
What it does seem to be is one of the first major news incidents with a mainstream media that has social media training.
The result? A widespread use of YouTube and Twitter to market linear content channels to viewers. Radio stations exhorting viewers to follow events on their programmes. TV news asking viewers to follow their hashtags.
An impromptu episode of a mainstream emulating, amateur news show the David Pakman Show on YouTube with this in the description:
“If you liked this clip of The David Pakman Show, please do us a big favor and share it with your friends… and hit that "like” button!“
A fake Boston Marathon Twitter account hastily registered by bait and switch marketing sociopaths to garner a large and profitable list of followers (since removed).
Mainstream and emergent journalism getting social media horribly, horribly wrong.
The problem is a narrow conception of social media as a branding platform – something that linear media uses to drive traffic to "real” content. The problem is a perception of social media as merely a PR platform.
And, also, a basic lack of humanity.
Meanwhile, the real social journalism from the scene was more effective and affecting than anything the legacy media could scrape together.