Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Social Media - Alterity Meme of Breaking News

How to become an instinctive thinker covering breaking news when you're mobile
A couple of days ago working with International Masters students we simulated a breaking news event and drew up a methodology how Social Media with Traditional Media, coupled with user-behaviour enabled us to understand the dynamics of the story. You might want to have a look at that BREAKING NEWS after this present post.

Yesterday on BBC Radio 4, a programme called "Taking a Stand", one of the most powerful and engaging interviews with André Hanscombe.

Mr Hanscombe's partner Rachel Nickell was murdered on Wimbledon common in 1992. When her body was discovered their three year old son Alex was found holding onto her.

Towards the end of the interview, Mr Hanscombe disputed why alleged errors and failures by the police might not be repeated. He is presently suing them.

He said the police force say they have produced a manual that informs its members what they should do in the event of something similar.

Mr Hanscombe asked what if the circumstances were different, what then?  Will the manual fit the solving of the crime.
News and uniqueness
An event deemed newsworthy is a unique occurrence. There might be a thousand burglaries in an area with the same MO (modus operndi), but each burglary will be unique in some way.

It's conceivable that following BP's Oil Spill off the Gulf of Mexico, a report will be produced that seeks to address and contain the next spill - forbid that happens.

If the circumstances change, a ship instead of a rig, a pipe instead of a crevice, what then?

I spoke to a Fortune 100 company recently ( I had to sign a confidentiality agreement, so won't reveal who they are) but my talk attempted to look at the frame work surrounding an event and how social media - the apps and behaviour of you and me - feeds into the cyclic flow.

And that's it, in many ways.

Social Media and News
Social Media as an expression is neither the panacea to unravelling the units of an event deigned news, nor is it the corollary to breaking news from a journo's point of view.

Though as a low hanging fruit it enables us to participate in the news-info flow once exclusively the preserve of  PR companies such as Edelman, Schwartz Communications and footprint-comm. 

And it is still a strong field for PR companies.

What we have now are a set of tools; tools which assist, alter, redefine the mode of capture and delivery. Yes, from a previous system, now many deem antiquated, but arguably not quite.

But behind these tools lay a strategic approach, a unique advance based on various contingencies to pre-empting or promote the symmetrical (as opposed to asymmetrical of old) flow of information.

The methodology to a tool's use e.g. twitter follows the same alto-usage as inventions of old e.g the gramophone.

Who would have thought twitter would be at the centre of a global affairs reportage from Iran. Twitter was meant to be ambient conversational awareness amongst friends.

In other words YOU will unravel a purposeful use for a potential social media tool, often away from its norm, via serendipidity or strategically, which will then be fed into the "social media war games" book.

Then lets not forget in the potential theatre of a news event, there are inherent variables we can't control. Such as as will  the breaking news, or controlling the news (two different strategies sharing some traits) catch fire.

Former republican Senator Trent Lott's damning comments around civil rights falls into this category. The networks missed the news, many bloggers missed it, with the exception of a few who through fortitude and some luck made it an national news agenda issue.

The skill then is you. If you know enough about apps. if you have an idea of user behaviour, if you have a wise head, and muscle memory based on previous experience, if you are a risk taker in the field of experiments, you're off.

The strategy at hand 
An approach that may appear universal, without all the aforementioned draws me to the events surrounding freelancer Monica Gaudio.

Gaudio realised her blog post has been lifted by Cook's Source magazine editor Judith Griggs without attribution or credit.

Then the editor admonished Gaudio for not being grateful because she had cleaned up the article,

Gaudio wrote about it.The blogosphere picked it up and ran with the story besieging Cook's for an apology. They since have.

The strategy to SMers, or Gaudio's approach looked fairly straight forward, but she still had to write an article (no doubt feeling a range of emotions) that worked well enough where we could clearly see wrong doing. She didn't get angry, she was measured.

Other issues, as we discussed in a recent Master's lecture on Breaking News require a panoply of tools and thought processes against the thing you can't control- time.

But the method is liquid. What a strategist with SM knowledge can provide is a frame work.

What they can provide on the day of a crisis, if they're good, is a bespoke approach, based around a frame work.  Reasons why many broadcasters become PR people, they reported on many of the incidents, so know how the mainstream media will react.

It involves prioritising, instinct, knowledge, and flexibility.

Without SM tools we may concede we're poorer for the way we interact with the variables of breaking news, but he tools don't run the campaign, you do.

See here for background post on BREAKING NEWS  2 days ago

Coming up
Social Media is not new by any stretch of the imagination. It's cultural-socia specific. With the re-introduction of Television post WWII  and migration moves out of urban enclosures, Television  overtook cinema and became a social media enabler.

Granted you weren't able to talk back, but Its impact while different to today's SM, was no less inpactful in how people watch TV and shared thoughts in community spots such as pubs.

SMs built upon the Net's raison detre of connectivity and earlier breakthrough e.g. email have extended our reach volubility. So where does modern SM go from here? Zann Gill from Microbes Mind explains.

David Dunkley Gyimah, a senior lecturer at the University of Westminster, and PhD Candidate at SMARTlab University College Dublin is a member of Microbes Mind - a gathering set up by Nasa researcher Zann Gill, which provides provocative questions and answers to scenarios.