By: Scott Stein, VP of Client Services, Leonard & Finco Public Relations
About a quarter of Americans received information about the Boston Marathon bombings from social media in the minutes and hours following the explosion. That according to the Pew Research Center which says the percentage jumps to about 56 percent in the younger age demographic of 18-to-29.
That’s not a real surprise. Michael Dimock, director of Pew’s public opinion and polling project told USA Today, “those sites offer a convenient way to get news, especially since many users are constantly on them.”
Count me, and several of my co-workers, among those who were monitoring social media sites, looking for the latest updates on the explosions in Boston while keeping an eye on TV and cable sources as well.
What was troubling, however, was the amount of inaccurate information. There were reports of suspects in custody, one outlet had the death count at a dozen and a missing college student was wrongly reported to be one of the bombing suspects.
There’s no doubt that social media have had a dramatic impact on the way news is now disseminated. The rush to be the first to report an arrest or other updated information is greater than ever. The problem is that leads to more mistakes and more of us wondering whether what we see is accurate.
While the inaccurate information that streamed out of Boston on Patriots Day is troubling, many are also talking about the positives of social media during that tragedy. Social media played a role in helping to reunite loved ones separated as a result of the bombings. It also allowed race participants and spectators to communicate with family and friends to let them know they were safe. Social media were also used during the investigation phase. Finally, it was also a way for millions to express their sorrow to the people of Boston and those participating in this iconic event.
Maybe the inaccurate information that was spread through the social media, and traditional media, will lead to some serious discussion about changes that need to be made. I’m not real confident that will happen. One thing is sure, the next time there’s another tragedy like this there’s no doubt that social media will play a significant role in how people learn about it.
How do you feel about the role of social media in the Boston Marathon bombings? Were you looking for updates on Twitter or Facebook?