I’m a proud native of the Green Mountain State. Like many, I am truly awe-struck by the devastation sustained in the wake of Irene. I consider myself incredibly lucky to have been positioned high above the flood plain, while many others just miles away were not so fortune. Even Luke’s place miraculously survived a near miss by the raging Rock River in Williamsville, see the photo and video below. What’s been more eye-opening than photos of the aftermath, is the way social media distorted the facts about what has happened here and where we, as a state, stand now.
News travels fast these days. And the words we publish online, are at once both public and permanent. The case of Hurricane, or more accurately Tropical Storm Irene, is a perfect reminder to exercise restraint when posting online and remember there’s a lot of people relying on the [unofficial] words of others. Irene, as any natural disaster would, set off a chain reaction of amateur reporters and iPhoneographers constantly vying for the most viewed video, best flood pictures, or closest accounts of the destruction taking place.
Itching to be the next Jim Cantore caused many to put their better judgement aside and get dangerously close to rapidly moving high waters and eroding river banks that could have turned the tables at any time during their “broadcast”. Additionally, many of the tweets and posts, even from reputable news sources, were unable to keep a clear take on just how far the damage extended, as they were equally caught up in the quest for biggest headline.
So what does the aftermath of this social media storm teach us?
Be sensible, not sensational: The big headlines spread fast, but accurate reporting will get you more followers. Don’t blow your posts out of proportion. Keep it to what you know, not what you’ve heard. Provide links to credible sources wherever possible.
Be an investigative reporter: Don’t believe everything you read at first glance. Check the facts and exercise scrutiny in the messages you choose to share or retweet. Irene example: You may have heard that “VT was destroyed”, but in actuality while over 250 roads are closed and 13 towns were at one point isolated, the rest of the state is fine, operational and ready for (and counting on) fall foliage business.
Put caution before coverage: Especially in bad weather situations, where conditions can change unexpectedly, don’t risk putting yourself in harm’s way to get the shot. It’s better to read the news the next day, than become part of the story.
More to come in Part 2…