Social Media Users: Today’s News Reporters (And What the Asiana Airlines Crash Has to Do With It)

You wake up in the morning.  You take a selfie on Instagram (or at least, I do).  You tweet about your coffee not being strong enough (…I do…).  You update your Facebook status about your daughter's tap recital.  (Congratulations.)  Social media is great to update people on all these riveting aspects of your life, but the users frequenting the social media sites of the World Wide Web are more regularly taking on a new role these days: news reporter. 

It became even more evident this past Saturday when an Asiana Airlines flight coming from Seoul crash landed at San Francisco's airport.  The plane was eventually enveloped in smoke and fire, forcing the passengers to make a run for it.

social media about asiana airlines plane crash

photo by Aero Icarus

While all of this was going on, where were the news reporters?  They were on the tarmac and in the airport: the passengers and witnesses watching from inside — documenting everything on their cell phones.

Obviously, the news media outlets weren't able to be there when the tragedy struck; they probably wouldn't have been able to get on the tarmac and up in the action anyway.  However, it wasn't even needed.  Passengers and other observers caught it all and posted it to Twitter–like passenger David Eun, former president of AOL Media and Studios.  He began tweeting updates to his followers and even included a photo.  

His message was retweeted 32,700 times and his number of followers skyrocketed.

Meanwhile, nobody is retweeting my tweets about my ventures in gardening.

social media and news outlets

These happenings provoke an interesting question: Have the media come to rely on everyday social media users like you and me?

In many cases, YES!  Until they can get on the scene, the tweets and status updates ARE the news they're reporting. 

While there are many reasons for the media outlets to remain skeptical about personal accounts of events like this, we can no longer deny that in several situations, the only reason news gets out is because of Joe Schmo posting a video on his YouTube page of everything that's going down.

social media posting breaking news updates

Sree Sreenivasan of Columbia University makes a very interesting (and warranted) observation: There seems to be a rebirth of social media every time something newsworthy hits the pages of Facebook and Twitter first.  Each time, we're reminded of just how crucial these personal accounts are, as that's often all we have.

It also addresses the issue of the media slanting news reports due to hidden agendas, as personal accounts might provide for a clearer reflection of what's really happening — but we'll save that for another day…

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Megan Grant is a content developer and editor at ADvise Media Group.  She enjoys blogging about blogging and yelling at club promoters on the strip.  Click here for her full bio.  

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