From the Editor’s Desk: Social media reports
One of the most complex and challenging aspects of reporting in a digital age is the role of social media.
Many professionals attribute the diminishment of print media to the online news cycle: instantaneous and continual updates.
And in this same vein, almost everyone owns the tools to function as a reporter, right in your pocket i.e. a smartphone with access to Twitter and Facebook.
This weekend, I observed an excellent example of this trend. At 11 a.m. this morning, the Baltimore Sun reported a shooting close to Towson’s campus as well as six arrests.
But hours before that, Twitter had already erupted with rumors about the incidents.
Students uptown tweeted rumors about the shooting, including that the victim, who had been shot through the hand, flagged down Baltimore County Police. Twitter users also referenced a fight outside the York Road Green Turtle that required police to use pepper spray.
And not any reports that I could find was references to a stabbing and the use of tear gas. User @monicapotts_ tweeted “stabbing in Towson last night. because that makes me feel really safe…” and user @Kclemens00 tweeted “Damn. Stabbing tonight in Towson. Cops everywhere.”
Even on microblogs like tumblr, students have recounted their full homecoming stories, including what appeared to be a riot outside of the Rec Room on York Road.
I must stress that we cannot confirm these rumors, however, whispers on Twitter often result in major stories and newspapers rely on these leads to uncover and explore incidents in their communities.
A common practice for several organizations, including police and the fire department, is to tweet to the public, which can result in better public safety but also allows for the public to join in on the conversation.
For instance, if @BaltimorePolice (the official account of BCPD) tweeted about an off-campus robbery near campus, those who follow the account could vacate that area and also contribute eyewitness accounts, including photos and videos.
I recommend Towson students follow as many Twitter accounts as possible like @BaltimorePolice. You should also follow our Twitter as well, @TheTowerlight.
We tweet breaking news as soon as we hear confirmed reports.
And a new tool we’re utilizing that you may have glimpsed on our website is a Storify. Storify allows us to aggregate tweets, URLs, Facebook posts and links – we’ve used it to report reactions to incidents like the recent Morgan State shooting.
While again we cannot endorse these tweets as fact, the public’s opinion and knowledge is important to us, and we want to make sure we use it to our full advantage.
Thank you for being active in the community and making us aware. For full coverage of the post-homecoming incidents, please check out pg. 7, (Sept. 24, 2012) of the news section.