English Blog/Margy Werd/Jack’s Mom
November 23, 2015
How Facebook is Helping News Organizations
Every journalist knows that the best news stories tug at our heartstrings. They are stories (often supplemented with photographs or videos) about people-- people that the reader or (in the case of TV and the internet) the viewer, can relate on an emotional level.
As a former TV news reporter who was often assigned to cover breaking news, I know this firsthand. Take for example the events of 911 in 2001. When the tragedy first unfolded, we reported the basic information-- the locations, evacuations, the interrupted transportation, and the death toll. It wasn’t until days and even weeks later, that we saw (in my opinion) the finest reporting emerge-- stories that introduced us to the faces and the personalities of the people involved in 911.
At the time, reporting on people involved in 911 (or in any news story) could be challenging and time consuming. At the risk of sounding crass— here’s how it worked. A reporter (or a producer assigned to a reporter) asked “sources” to offer up the names of survivors, heroes, or widowed family members. I would then call these people, or more often-- just show up unannounced at their residence-- with a news photographer and a video camera, and ask for an interview and photos, because a photo of a victim flashed across the TV screen creates a vivid, memorable image, and ratings.
Fast-forward to 2015, and a news event that’s being compared (on some levels) to 911-- the Paris Massacre. But what’s different about this event is the length of time it took news organizations to humanize it. Thanks to Facebook, just several hours after the tragedy-- we not only got a photo, but we got to learn about American victim, Nohemi Gonzalez, a student studying in Paris. Thanks to Instagram, we met her boyfriend, who posted a touching message to his “angel”. We also met American caterer and shooting survivor, Helen Wilson. All because reporters and producers hurriedly did their due diligence? No, all because they knew how to copy and paste.
In a way, I’m jealous. Why couldn’t social media have existed when I was a reporter? Think of how much easier (and frankly more dignified) it is to Google rather than to knock on a door, with microphone in hand, and ask the person who opened it, “How does it feel…?” But more than jealousy, I am filled with awe and appreciation for this would wide human link. Who would have thought that with the click of a finger we would be able to (virtually) meet anyone, anywhere in the world?
It makes me think it might be time for me to breakdown, and get on Facebook.