Thursday, April 19, 2007

Modern Tragedy 

This article and this one too show how much communications have changed when tragic events occur. Students naturally gravitated to online for information, to tell their stories and to express grief and solidarity. What happened is instructive for PR practitioners. Social networking and blogging have a part in communicating modern tragedy as do online video and audio.

We must pay attention to these media because they can spread news as well as rumor. Part of the tragedy of the events at Virginia Tech is that a student was wrongly accused for several hours of being the shooter because he was known to like guns. It was an error picked up and repeated by at least one individual in the mainstream media.

One should not rely just on traditional press releases or mainstream media or a web page to get the word out now. We should prepare for a spectrum of media, including blogs where we can post facts and expressions of sympathy as they come in.

It's more complicated. The speed of information has increased, and we have to run faster just to stay in place. If Virginia Tech's administration can be accused of anything, it might be that it misunderstood the role of online media as the terrible event unfolded. It won't make that mistake again, but it also will be many years before students and parents forgive. They won't forget.


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