New technologies are emerging every day--most of those in that supercomputer you carry in your pocket or purse. They're designed to solve every day little problems or just facilitate how we maneuver through our every day lives. But, as this blog post from Patrick Meir points out, these every day tools get a major workout in disasters. And as such, they become part of the entire disaster management effort.
Waze is one great example. My tech-savvy son-in-law just shared it with me as navigating around our recently collapsed I-5 bridge over the Skagit River is a bit of a challenge these days. Waze is simply brilliant. Download the app and then drive with the waze app open. It uses your geolocation capability along with all other wazers in your area to give you realtime traffic information. It will alert you when an alternative route would be better and it allows you to make handsfree reports in addition to the fully automatic reporting that goes on simply by driving. In other words, Waze provides realtime information on traffic by sharing what is happening with everyone using Waze.
It's pretty easy to see how this can be invaluable in an emergency requiring evacuation or simply avoiding the area.
Uber is another example, although as Meir points out, they didn't adapt to the needs of Hurricane Sandy other than to raise their fees. Uber makes it very easy using an app to order up a towncar with driver to take you anywhere. If you use this service in every day life, it make sense when you need a ride to get the heck out of town, its where you are going to turn.
Two points I want to make here:
- technology is evolving and changing so rapidly it makes the heads of old guys like me spin like a weathervane in an Iowa tornado
- these kinds of every day technologies are what people are going to turn to and use in a disaster to help them avoid danger, get information and share information. Google Peoplefinder may be the ultimate example. If we use Google every day to find just about any little bit of information we may need or want, why wouldn't we turn to Google to find the people most dear to us?
The implications for emergency management are pretty obvious. If these are the tools people are using to respond to an emergency, they become part of the emergency management system. And emergency managers should become familiar with every element of emergency management. Learn what people are doing and how they are doing it. Because emergency management is providing for the public what the public can't provide for themselves--and what they are providing for themselves and in community through their interconnections is ever increasing.
Marcus Deyerin is doing us all a big favor by honestly sharing valuable lessons learned from his experience as initial PIO for the I-5 bridge collapse in Skagit County, Washington State. His third post on Jim Garrow's blog moves from the initial stages into the next stage where he began dealing with the media crowd.
I have some questions for Marcus and thought it might be good to address them here and hopefully have Marcus answer them here or in Jim's blog. One thing that struck me early on is that Marcus was out there by himself and could have really benefited from some help, particularly experienced help. That's where a good crisis communication plan and some training really helps because if you know what you are doing (Marcus clearly does) and you are lone rangering it, you don't really need a plan. But when the focus of the world is suddenly on your event, the crush of media, social media, monitoring, info gathering, dark sites and all that starts descending on you, you really can't go it alone. So, my first question is: Marcus, did you get any help? Did you try to? Would you have been able to organize and manage a team while meeting the demands, or do you think having some help would have resulted in less efficiency? Do see a VOST (Volunteer Operation Support Team) being any help here?
My second question is a fundamental one for today's communicators, particularly given the reality that Marcus faced when he tried to take on the media crush by himself. He reports that at 8:38pm (bridge collapsed at about 7 pm) his phone number was tweeted out by a State Patrol PIO (hmm, did he ask you first? And, is there a reason you didn't tweet it out? I would think so.) The first media calls came two minutes later and Marcus reports at that point he became inundated talking to the media.
As a highly interested news consumer eagerly watching Marcus' tweets, I noticed this without knowing the reason. The flow of information essentially stopped, switching from Marcus to the media. However, prior to this the media were getting a great flow of information from Marcus. So, here's my question: when you are lone rangering it and you have a choice of continuous tweets vs. answering individual media calls, what should you do?
I was PIO for an industrial facility owned by a global giant quite a number of years ago. Since I was pioneering and advocating for a strong online presence, as the initial PIO in a major drill, I focused on getting all the information on the website. I delayed responding to some media calls in favor of getting this information out believing that by doing so I was serving the most number of media and non-media stakeholders as well. I was called on the carpet quite severely for this being told in no uncertain terms that the media come first, even if it is a local radio station. The facility management even chided me because it was the headquarters types who were beating me up over this. I humbly acquiesced (never easy for me) but I always thought they were wrong. I believe that even more so about ten years later.
My thought (and I'm throwing this open for question) is that it would have been better for Marcus to tweet something like: To media--I can serve you best by continuing to provide updated tweets. Pls understand I can't respond to interview requests at the moment. And then keep tweeting.
That way, all in the media from Cairo to Chicago to Mount Vernon would have access to the same and the best info, plus even me watching twitter in California.
Marcus--and the rest of you PIO types--what do you think?
I posted last week about the bridge collapse taking both lanes of Interstate 5 down between Seattle and Vancouver BC. In that I talked about Marcus Deyerin who provided the best information via Twitter, information the news media were relying on for their reports. I know Marcus (I live about five miles from the former bridge, Marcus about 25 miles) and knew he served as a PIO for regional incident management, but he had to drive in backed up traffic or be in some position to know what was going on. And I couldn't tell from his tweets if he was acting as a citizen with unusual access to rescue information or if his tweets were official communications.
Well, Marcus is sharing some of his personal experiences serving as the PIO of this incident on Jim Garrow's terrific blog. In his post I find out that if I had followed his tweets back to the beginning I would have found out that he was indeed operating in the official PIO capacity--but using his personal Twitter account. In this account I find out why--although I hope to hear more.
I also found out how Marcus happened to become the PIO for this incident. He was right nearby and like a good responder checked in to see if he could help. The fact that he knew the incident commander, had worked with him before as part of the regional incident team is extremely important. This is why we form these teams, we we drill, we why get together and get to know each other. I suspect the IC was quite happy to see a familiar face and one he knew he could trust to do the PIO job.
As one of the first responders to this scene commented on my previous post, the fact that there were no fatalities, not even any serious injuries, suggests in his words "the Good Lord watches over Skagit Valley." As a Skagit Valley resident, I have every reason to agree. As for Marcus being there when needed, just a coincidence? Maybe not.
Seeing the very high value of having a communicator like Marcus share these kinds of honest reflections and lessons learned, I would strongly urge other Crisis Comm readers who find themselves on the hot seat like Marcus did to use this blog to share their experiences. No better way of learning than listening carefully to those who have just been through what you are preparing for!
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Patrice Cloutier has been getting more PIO experience recently than anyone deserves. While US news doesn't cover Canada all that well there have been a number of things going on in Ontario and other parts of our northern neighbor and Patrice has been quite busy. If you don't subscribe to his blog crisis comms command post you may after reading this latest post about the role of the PIO and the need for close coordination among PIOs in multi-agency response.
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There's nothing like an event hitting close to home to help you understand the critical importance of good emergency communication. The I-5 bridge collapse last night over the Skagit River in northwest Washington is a great example. This bridge, which is the main transportation link between Seattle and Vancouver, BC is also just five or six miles from my home. I happen to be in California, but my daughter and her family were traveling from Seattle to our home in rural Skagit County yesterday evening, so the news had some real intensity.
My wife got a text from her sister who lives in the area (lesson 1: that's how news is spread these days--from those who know (usually via social media or digital comms in some way) to those who don't. The story was so unbelievable (how could an Interstate bridge carrying 71,000 cars a day just fall into a river?) that I reached for my tablet and googled Skagit bridge. Sure enough, first reports were 23 minutes old.
Then, thoughts turned to our family. I called my daughter and son-in-law who were either enroute or already at our house. No answer. Voice mail. Now I admit I started to freak. One of my sons called from Seattle and I practically yelled, is Ashley OK? He didn't know. My wife was texting them, and shortly after I got off the phone with my son he sent a text saying she's OK. Relief. I was glad that we were able to use text and cellphone and wondered while trying if they would stay up as cell traffic in the region would be no doubt spiking. Sure enough, later authorities requesting people stop using cell phones to keep the system available for necessary communications. (Lesson 2: people finding (and pet finding) is one of the most urgent needs in an emergency and the primary means of doing this will likely not be available. Have a plan to use the Internet with your family, and in major events, Google's People Finder service will be invaluable.)
I continued to watch the news stories emerge on my tablet, but I wanted live from the scene coverage. If I was home, it would be available on all three Seattle TV stations, but I was in California. I flipped through CNN, MSNBC, Fox--nothing. Their political coverage of Obama's speech and the continuing controversies really torked me--don't they know what is important?? It was probably nearly two hours later that Fox started to show a headline crawl with news about the collapse that was well over an hour old. I commented to my wife that too much of that kind of slow (therefore inaccurate) coverage and I would never trust such a channel again--and this is why news has to move so fast today.
I noticed on the news stories from KING5 in Seattle that they had an app--so I downloaded it on my tablet. And by golly, I was able to watch their non-stop from the scene news coverage for the next few hours. (Kudos to KING5 particularly Dennis Bounds and Lori Matsukawa for doing a great job and particularly for them getting the scoop on the cause of the bridge collapse with the on-air interview of eye witness Dale Ogden who saw the truck hit the bridge in his rearview mirror.)
But, I also kept watching Twitter. The KING5 reporters were keeping an eye on Twitter as well which they repeatedly acknowledged calling it the "twittersphere." The best info was coming from Marcus Deyerin who providing information about the three people in the river and the status of their rescue. I've had the privilege of talking to Marcus a few times and knew he was a PIO for the emergency response organizations in the area, but he was tweeting on his @Mdeyerin twitter account. So I didn't know if he was operating in an official capacity or not. It wasn't too long in watching his tweets that I determined he had to be because he was clearly in a great position to get the latest information from officials.
Lessons 3 and 4: once again, Twitter proved to be the fastest and best source of information when provided by an official source. but, Lesson 4--it would have been considerably better if the twitter account used was from an official agency-- or else I would recommend to Marcus that he occasionally tweet that though using a personal account he was operating in an official capacity. He may have done that and I didn't see it, but I didn't see it and therefore it didn't happen. It was once again fascinating to watch KING5 using Marcus' tweets and report them to their news audience--but I never did hear them mention Marcus directly or state that the information they were getting was from an Incident Command center, the Sheriff's department or any other official sources. In fact, as I think about it, the fact that there was no one representing the Sheriff's department providing information during this event seems to be a large gap. Marcus was likely representing them, but that was not clear.
I do have one brickbat to throw and that is at KOMO News. Seattle has three highly competitive TV news channels: KING, KIRO and KOMO. An event like this is where competition is really intense. I saw several tweets from KOMO that said "Cars, bodies in water in Skagit bridge collapse" or something like that. Bodies? Are you sure? I never saw any tweets or anyone else reporting on bodies. Lots of info and pictures of the people sitting on the roofs of their cars. Bodies? I went to their website to see the evidence for this rather chilling and attention getting headline. The story on their website said "Cars, People in the water in bridge collapse." Well, yes, that was true and that was what everyone was covering. I don't know who was doing their tweets but using the term "bodies" vs. "people" was a very serious lapse in journalistic judgment. If this was done to compete for audience, double shame. If it happened because tweeting was assigned to a more junior journalist (from the digital native generation) then some retraining has to take place. At any rate, my respect for KOMO (which was pretty high) took a pretty deep dive as a result of this mistake.
In a previous post on making suggestions for updating NIMS, I suggested that social media monitoring should go into the ICS structure rather than be considered a part of the JIC or PIO responsibilities. This prompted some thoughtful responses from readers of this blog--I encourage you to read them at the bottom of that post.
I wanted to respond in particular to the comments of Ed McDonough who raises some very important objections to my suggestion. Here is the crux of his concerns:
If we move social media monitoring to planning, then should we also move tradition media monitoring to plans? How about the monitoring of public query lines? Furthermore, what sense would it make to move the monitoring of social media away from the same group of people that are pushing out the social media messaging?
My initial response to those questions was, of course not. We wouldn't move traditional media monitoring to Planning, nor inquiry management. Very clearly the JIC and PIO need to be monitoring social media for communication purposes. So my suggestion of putting it in Planning either creates a duplication of effort--monitoring in Planning and the JIC--or it takes the valuable information gained one step away from either of these functions. Neither one is a good solution.
I am dealing with this issue right now in a couple of situations where the planning process is including where this kind of monitoring should go. I have advocated it to be included as part of the ICS structure for these reasons:
1. Communications has traditionally been quite clearly separated from planning and Command. The operational types tend to think they do all the planning and the response work and the communications job is to keep the media out of their way and give the media and the world the facts--minimal is best.
2. Social media monitoring--and indeed media and items emerging from public or media inquiries--are increasingly essential to response decision-making. Let me put it another way: response leaders will most likely fail in their job of making best decisions if they do not take into account the information available from outside the response. It's not just about communications--it's about operational decisions. In this, I know Ed agrees with me.
So at heart my problem is that the traditionally-minded operational types will not the info they get from social media seriously if it comes to them through the PIO. That is a general statement because ultimately it depends on the relationship the PIO and other comms leaders have with the operational types including Command. It also depends on the experience of those in charge. But, in general, that's where the problem lies.
I think this problem is significant enough (would love to hear from you!) that it cannot be solved by simply saying, "Well, they'll just have to learn." It seems much quicker to get to where we need to get to if the info comes to Command via Planning. So, Ed, I have a suggested compromise.
1. I do believe that a new officer position in ICS needs to be created: Intelligence Officer.
2. Assuming that doesn't happen, the Sit Stat unit will continue to serve as the primary information gathering function for the response and Planning the means by which Command gets operational information on which to make planning decisions.
3. A PIO/JIC team member needs to sit in the Sit Stat or Planning unit. The plans I developed always had that but they were there to gather info for the PIO and JIC. Now, they need to have two duties: to provide that important operational information coming from the full monitoring operation, and to gather response and event information.
4. Technology which allows for information sharing between the units is a key part of making this work.
So, I buy Ed's arguments and believe that the external world monitoring functions (media, social media, public and media queries, community meetings, etc.) belongs in the JIC and with the PIO. But that the valuable information gathered that affects operations needs a very fast, very easy, very obstacle free pathway from the JIC to Command--most likely through Planning.
It occurs to me (and based on a conversation with my good friend and colleague Patrice Cloutier this morning) that one critical element of making this work is the analytics and reporting of monitoring content. In other words, if you don't have the people who can separate the signal from the noise in a way that Command can act on, it won't work no matter how much good social media monitoring you do. Technology is part of this, but it takes good, in-depth response management experience, a good sense for the personality and priorities of Command, great judgment is separating the wheat from the chaff, and a very strong ability in synthesizing a lot of data into actionable intelligence and recommendations. That's asking a lot. I'm afraid the emerging practice is to find a young person in the office, give them a tablet and tell them, hey, you know all this social media stuff, you do our monitoring for us. Not so sure about that.
What do you think, Ed?
This has to be one of the most frightening and troubling thoughts for many in emergency management. I was shocked to see this report that says now about 20% of survivors of a disaster use social media to contact responders--and 44% of those contact use a responder's Facebook page to contact.
That is only one surprising statistic in this infographic summarizing disasters and how people use social media in disasters. It might not be a bad idea to print this very visual and informative guide and post it up on a lunch room wall. If nothing else, it will serve as a reminder of how much the world of emergency management is changing.
The gut reaction of many will be to say, well, they just can't do that. We can't be monitoring all those channels. There is no assurance that we will respond. Indeed, I believe it is best practice on any agency or personal responder Twitter page or Facebook page to let visitors know that contact through this channel will not guarantee response and that 911 should be used for any emergency.
But, it's one thing to say they can't do it, its another thing to stop the incoming tide. The fact is, people using social media and text messages, and relaying messages to others to summon help, is now part of our emergency management reality. Certainly one of the easiest ways to incorporate this use is to enable easy texting for help and that is exactly what the FCC is doing by enabling text to 911. Much better to do this than to have every agency establish their own text shortcode.
I remember the story of a couple of years ago of a 10 year old girl in Australia falling into an abandoned well. Fortunately she had her cellphone with her. Did she call 000, the Australian equivalent of 911? No, never occurred to her apparently. The phone she carried was used to communicate with her friends through text and Facebook. So that's what she did and one of them called 000. When we start understanding that for a great many in our communities, the device they carry with them is a texting and social media interaction tool, it will become more acceptable that they will use these methods of reaching out and asking for help. Besides, what's the chance of cellphone and landline service being available in many major disasters?
I just finished giving the keynote presentation at the EMI SIG conference (Dept of Energy's Emergency Management Issues Special Interest Group. The theme was "Harnessing the Winds of Change" and that is certainly appropriate in emergency management and communications. I focused on the Boston bomber manhunt, particularly the use of Internet-distributed police scanner information, what I've called nano-news. The world of news, social media, emergency communication and emergency management is certainly changing.
Governments often seem the last to recognize and deal with change. I've fretted over the 1990s era version of the Joint Information Center Model for some time, adapting it (it's basically the best thing out there for crisis communication structure) in my OnePage Crisis Communication Playbook. Now the 2009 version has been thoroughly updated and there are many reasons to cheer this update. I plan on doing a more thorough evaluation and post on the numerous significant updates to this fundamentally sound model, but will defer to my friend Jim Garrow's post on it where he focuses on two of the big changes: social media integration and how the JIC relates to ESF15.
Given the increased speed of updates, I suspect the National Response Team would welcome input for the next version of the JIC Model. However, FEMA is positively soliciting input on a revision or update of NIMS. This is great news for those concerned about how the venerable ICS is holding up to all the changes in the world of emergency management. The biggest change is captured in Bill Boyd's blog title: It's Not My Emergency." NIMS/ICS is appropriately a command and control model designed to enable a diverse and ad hoc team to manage a response through "unity of command." But in a "not my emergency" world, with important and valuable response partners who are operating on their own, autonomously, without training, without guidance, without coordination--how do you effect unit of command now?
Leaving aside that big question, I suspect anyone who has had experience in events under NIMS/ICS has ideas about how to improve it. FEMA is soliciting comments here and you may want to forward this link to others interested as I'm not impressed with how FEMA is getting the word out on this. I am impressed with the technology they are using to submit ideas and allow others to vote and comment on the ideas submitted. What's a little challenging is fitting the ideas or recommendations you want to provide into the categories or buckets they have offered.
I plan on throwing a few in myself. My concerns are:
1) Incorporating social media monitoring into the ICS structure--not through the PIO where it often lands now, but either in the Planning Section or maybe in an "Intelligence Officer" role to provide direct and continuing actionable intelligence to Command. c
2) Consolidating the Liaison Officer and Public Information Officer roles into a single Communication Officer role. The LNO role has been confusing and those serving in this are often ill-prepared to deal with the pressing demands of keeping government officials and other response partners fully engaged. We don't live in an era of media relations any more, but of an all encompassing communication world in which multiple very important audiences need access to fast, accurate information. Separating these roles creates unnecessary silos, complications and slows communication rather than speeding it.
3) Ending the confusion between ESF#15 (External Affairs) and the Joint Information Center. ESF#15 is a politically motivated structure designed to enable the elected officials to "control the message." The JIC is controlled by Command and is focused on getting information out about the event and the response. There are times when political messaging is needed and elected officials need to be front and center to build public trust. But it should never, ever supersede or eliminate the process of getting good response information out. The JIC should always be there to coordinate multiple-agency or response partner communications and to give the message: we are working together to fix this. If the politicians want to put their messages on top of that, have at, just don't kill the JIC in the meantime.
4) Recognizing in some official way the role of citizen responders. Perhaps through the optional incorporation of VOSTs into the ICS structure, or perhaps by creating a volunteer responder liaison function (probably in operations). The role of citizens should be now incorporated into response planning--and that would be aided by having an official citizen monitoring function in Planning of with the Intelligence Officer mentioned above. Not sure how to do this, but better minds can figure that out. We just can't bury our heads in the sand anymore pretending that "it's still our emergency."
The events in Boston and West, Texas have generated a deluge of focus once more on how communication happens in major events. I've resisted jumping into this, wanting some time for the dust to settle and be able to take a step back. What I see now is very disturbing as I think we are moving in a new phase of information sharing.
Twitter was the gold standard of information sharing--you can't get faster than Tweets from the scene, or so I thought. What could be faster than real time from observers or from official sources? I noted how effective Boston Police Department was in using Twitter--it was THE source for me and many thousands of others--including all major news outlets. In fact, for much of the event, the bulk of media reporting was repeating what BPD's twitter account said. CNN posted images of their tweets when the suspect was captured, and the print headlines directly quoted the tweet.
What could be faster? Police scanners. Through police scanners, apps for getting scanner info on smartphones like 5-0 Radio, services like Broadcastify, and the website Reddit, thousands were following the drama from Watertown as it happened. Below is a screen capture of a Reddit stream with a Redditor providing moment by moment updates from the Boston Police scanner. Through this, those reading this stream would know almost instantly afterwards that the subject hidden in the boat was still alive and that his arms were moving.
It is true, that in response to desperate pleas from Boston Police to not share information from scanners because of it compromising tactical operations and police and public safety, Broadcastify complied and stop the feed to the apps that it feeds. But, that's a little like the Colorado sheriff asking TV stations not to show videos of burning houses. It's nice that Broadcastify complied, but there are so many ways and so many people who would not be willing to comply.
A question is raised here about encryption of law enforcement radios and I admit, this has caused me to rethink radical transparency in law enforcement. However, then it becomes a technology game like police radars and the radar detectors that law breakers love.
But, I'm not here to talk about law enforcement and this challenge (I smell legislation coming).
What I am interested in and concerned about is the increasingly important problem of rumors and misinformation.
Much has been made already of the incredible errors of major news outlets such as CNN and New York Post. Most egregious was the false report that the authorities had a suspect in custody when they did not. I got word of that through my AP mobile app--I never saw focus on AP or an apology for getting that important item so wrong. Nieman Lab has an excellent summary of the many posts and reflections on this phenomenon of major news mistakes, mainly because of reliance on social media (although the big error of reporting the arrest that didn't happen was from a traditional anonymous law enforcement source.
Police scanner to app to social network craziness created at least one major human disaster. A police radio communication included the name of a person possibly considered a suspect. It was a young high school student. That name was quickly spread through the Internet through Reddit and through a prominent women's rights Facebook page. These sources apologized, but interestingly, the women's rights Facebook page author said "I'm NOT a journalist and only relaying information from the [Boston Police scanner] and other news sources."
I'm sorry, that doesn't cut it. You may not be a journalist, but you are a media outlet. You have 320,000 followers on your Facebook page, that's more subscribers than most daily newspapers and more viewers than most local news channels. You can't dodge your responsibility. You have an audience--that means you have a responsibility. Relaying information is what the media have done all their existence. You, like others who share knowledge and information, have a moral responsibility to get it right.
OK, enough sermonizing.
What are we to make of this? We can conclude that the faster information emerges from and about an event the more likely it is to be wrong. We can also conclude that the media, despite their drubbing, will not slow down but no doubt have already downloaded those police scanner apps themselves. We can also conclude that despite the efforts of many using social media to warn against spreading rumors or sharing potentially devastating information without verification, this will continue. Our need for speed of information is simply too great to have these problems stop us.
These problems would seem insurmountable if Boston Police Department had not provided a powerful answer. Not only did they perform exceptionally well to the applause of the nation, they communicated exceptionally well.
This statement from a summary of their job well done from mashable speaks volumes:
Boston PD entered the conversation immediately because they knew chatter about the investigation would happen with or without them.
Commissioner Davis and Public Information Chief Cheryl Fiandaca, who headed up Boston PD's social media efforts, accomplished what no police department has done before: led conversation with citizens in a time of crisis.
I return to the point made earlier: BPD's Twitter feed was THE source for solid information about the event. When the stories of an arrest circulated, they tweeted that the suspect was still being sought. They were warm and human, reminding all in the celebration after the arrest not to forget the victims and shared their names again. They expressed the reality of their emotion with the now famous tweet: CAPTURED!!
My congratulations to all those involved and my deepest thanks for proving a model for all others in emergency communication to follow. What is so desperately needed in a time of news happening as events happen is a calm, human, reassuring, fast but completely accurate voice. BPD did that in the best available vehicle. The alternative is to let all the other voices, strident, angry, confused and very wrong control the conversation. To allow the nay-sayers who yet resist this kind of immediate engagement to rule the day is to let the bad guys win. And no law enforcement officer wants to be accused of that.
Here's a great essay (written before the Boston bombings) by leading journalists from Canada, including Peter Mansbridge whom I consider the Walter Cronkite of Canadian broadcast journalism. In it Mansbridge and Bulgutch decry the slide into immediacy and the consequent loss of accuracy and therefore, trust.
The problem is that the horse has left the stable on this one. For news outlets looking to attract audiences (and which one isn't?) the game is all about immediacy. If you are not first with the news, you are providing commentary about it--not reporting the event. And those looking for the latest will go elsewhere. That's the simple reality of today's news coverage.
In this "instant news" world, there is no time for traditional fact checking. The examples of major news outlets getting it seriously wrong just keep increasing. Yesterday it was the news of an arrest in the Boston bombing. My AP mobile alert said that someone was arrested and this was followed by reporting on the tradition "get it first" networks like CNN and Fox. But, it was wrong. Hours later my AP Mobile alert went off again saying federal officials denied having anyone in custody. And then they go on as if nothing has happened. Yesterday, heads would have rolled over this.
But the article misses an even bigger point. As fast as the major news outlets are, they cannot be fast enough. He talks about getting the scoop, using UPI's scooping President Kennedy's assassination as a prime example. Scoops rarely happen with traditional journalism these days. Citizen journalists are outscooping the professionals every day, every hour. He's right in quoting the 1957 book Deadline Every Minute. Today it is deadline every second, it is headline every second and it is happening primarily on social media.
Tuesday night I was having dinner with some friends and did a little informal research. I asked them: how did you find out about the Boston bombings. One in the real estate business said he was in his office and his son who works with him told him. I asked what he did next. He said he turned to his computer, did a Google search using Boston Marathon as the search term. He immediately had accessed to videos and websites carrying information about the event--information being provided almost exclusively from the eyewitnesses at the scene.
My other friend said he heard it discussed in his office, and since it was about noon on the Pacific coast, he went home for lunch and watched TV. How traditional I thought. Even then, the information being "reported" by the likes of Anderson Cooper on CNN were largely reports from citizen journalists at the scene.
I asked if either of them checked Twitter (I asked because that is what I did and what I typically do when a major event is happening). Neither have a Twitter account, but thinking after our conversation they might get one, not to tweet, but to be able to access real time information sharing.
Today, we all want to know what is happening right now. The traditional news outlets understand that and are trying desperately to respond. They know the best sources for events like that are the people standing on the street next to where things are happening. They know getting a reporter at that spot is going to take take time. They know that much of what is shared is wrong, but their job is to report what is being said, not necessarily to fact check everything. They also know that increasingly the news hungry are not waiting for them to do the reporting, but going directly to those same on-the-scene citizen reporters they are using for their reporting.
The implications for emergency communications are massive--yet I see continuing evidence of a slowness and reluctance to adjust. The emphasis for most public communicators is getting that "news release" or "press release" out to the media. Come on. By the time you get that done, you are 17,000 tweets and three new emerging rumors behind.
I mentioned I went on twitter using some searches to find good sources for continuing information. I found that the best source was the Boston Police Department. Their twitter feed @Boston_Police was what I settled on as my news channel. Who needs CNN, NYT or Fox? They were the source, I found trustworthy information, and they were providing the kind of continuous feed I was looking for. They were being the broadcaster and as a news consumer I was and am grateful.
What about you?
This review of major media mistakes (focusing on CNN which is rapidly losing any remaining credibility) in their haste to be first was published by Ragan's PR Daily after I did the above post.
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How Businesses Maintained Continuity of Operations During Sandy
"There are many excellent companies that provide emergency notification services. When people ""
Canadian Volunteer Team Embraces ‘Second Tier Response’
"The role of Volunteer Emergency Responses Teams is vital! Like other volunteer organisations, our Ne"
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