A few minutes ago I sat down to write an entirely different post. My attention was caught by a friends’ comment on another friends Facebook post. That post asked prayers for the children of Oklahoma. Dreading news of yet another school shooting, I Googled “Oklahoma news”, trusting that the top hits would be from the Google News feed. It wasn’t a school shooting. It was a massive tornado, a mile wide, that traveled straight through Oklahoma City. This happened a few hours ago.
The news article contained a captured tweet from Oklahoma’s Governor Mary Fallin. The tweet used the hashtag #okwx. I followed the tag to a real-time stream of comments, links and backyard photos of the tornadoes path.
Much has been written about Twitter and Facebook as a source of breaking news. I’m not sure I have much to add to that conversation, except “yes”.
I am struck by how far I have come from the way I used to get my news. I stopped watching televised news several years ago when the steady tide of breaking news became too much and overtaxed my nervous system. At that time, I trusted NPR to deliver the news I needed via radio. During times of national crisis or local emergency, I knew that NPR would prime me to pay attention where attention was warranted.
Late last year, I became obsessed with podcasts, which now occupy my entire commute to work and back again. I don’t watch TV news. I don’t habitually listen to radio news. I have stopped reading newspapers and really don’t even follow newspapers blogs or Twitter feeds. I am off the media news grid. And yet, I still keep informed.
I use news curation tools like Zite, Feedly and Flipboard to push important stories up to my attention. This keeps me relatively well-informed about day to day updates. I fill in the cracks with media podcasts like On the Media to help me make sense of larger trends and find stories I missed.
The gap here is breaking news. Today, for the first time, I realized that I trust my social networks to let me know when something big is going down, and that I am okay with that.
I don’t need to know every last detail as it becomes revealed. I don’t need to watch wreckage porn to know things are bad. I just want to know what is happening, what is being done to respond and what I can do to help.
I am really interested in how people discover, interpret and receive their news. I am especially interested in those patterns of behavior as information habits. Where do you get your news? How have your news habits changed? Comments are most welcome.
Keep the people of Oklahoma in your thoughts. They are going to need our help for many years to come.