Please allow me to think aloud on the past 15 hours.
We all acknowledge that the news of Osama bin Laden’s death broke on social media. We’ve all got stories about Twitter’s impact, roundups of Twitter reactions, tweet timelines and Storification galore – but did anyone in the heat of the developing news last night start engaging readers on the spot? (This is not a rhetorical question, I actually want to know.)
I’m seeing a lot of the same curation sets of the same tweets or calls out for “tell us where you were or how you found out” second-day stories. These seem to be late reactions or pallid imitations of the wonderful, shared experience many Americans had in real-time on social media channels last night. What could we do better?
The story – and most initial reactions to it – were played out in the Twitter timeline before any major news outlets even confirmed the rumor. At this point, I’d speculate a lot of the on-the-spot reaction had passed. At that time, reporters and editors were busy working sources, heading to in-person meeting places and writing headlines (as they should be), but how many jumped into the social media fray in real time?
Who led or hosted a conversation about the night’s events on Twitter, Facebook, on-site comments or live chats? (As opposed to curating what was already occurring out there.)
If you didn’t – why not? Was there not enough staff to juggle hosting a full-time talk? Did nobody think to do it in time to get initial reactions? Was technology an issue? Was your audience not as plugged in to the social sphere?
This story – and the outpouring of reaction and conversation amongst strangers on social media – could serve as a lesson to newsrooms on how to develop a breaking news workflow that includes an element of community engagement when (or even before) the news breaks. We all saw it happen, we reacted and engaged as we best know how – now, what could we have done better?