IStock_000006518803extra-headline-XSmall I woke up this morning, retrieved my damp copy of the Globe and Mail from the porch, and read the ongoing coverage of violence in hockey, which covered the front page. Normally I would have driven to the Y and switched on CBC Radio One – catching part of the news report – but skipped the gym this morning out of a need to babysit my sump pump during the deluge that has turned the Greater Toronto Area into a soggy mess.

As a result, it wasn’t until I logged onto Facebook and Twitter that I learned of the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan.  My friends and contacts were linking to mainstream news coverage, photos, videos and more. Because of the timing of the disaster, it was not in the Globe; and because of my own neurosis, I didn’t drive to the gym and hear a CBC report.

This is not the first time that social media “news” has trumped traditional news outlets for me. I remember when the plane landed on the Hudson River and transfixed us all. At the dentist’s office later that day, I remarked on it to the hygienist, who had no idea what I was talking about. The radio station blaring in the office played top hits, not news.

To me, social media not only speeds delivery of the news; it also personalizes it. After I posted a link to the New York Times article on Facebook, my friend from Tokyo, Kaz Amemiya, president of the IABC Japan chapter, commented that he was all right, but that a nuclear reactor was in danger.  Twitter friends in the U.S., Canada and Europe chimed in with reports about their relatives in Japan. Later, I learned that Google had reacted to the tsunami with a Person Finder tool.

The days when we gleaned all of our timely information from the morning paper and the six o’clock TV news are long gone. We still rely on the mainstream media for their coverage of worldwide events, but it’s our own networks that often alert us to it. Individuals on the ground then augment that coverage on Facebook and Twitter. It’s the combination of citizen journalism and traditional coverage, along with the immediacy of social media, that I find fascinating. What about you?


  1. I first heard about the earthquake because a close friend of mine had been unable to meet up with me that day. She was trying all morning to get a hold of her fiancé stationed in Japan. But if it were not for that circumstance, I’m pretty sure the first source I’d hear about the earthquake would be Facebook. It was my second source. I do agree with your point that social media personalizes the news. By relating the news to themselves, it becomes relevant. Someone gets the news from another source then it appears on their social media in a personal way. I never thought about social media as a tool for citizen journalism. It is a way for people to look at the news for themselves rather than just accept what they see and hear. I like that idea very much!
    I had a short post dealing with social media and natural disaster but your post stirred up so many other thoughts and valued points, I’m going to link to your post!


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