As a native Bostonian, the tragic events of two weeks ago hit particularly close to home. Patriots Day is a holiday we hold sacred in New England; the Marathon is the seminal event of the day, drawing the eyes of the world upon our great city to watch feats of physical endurance and mental strength. 2013 will be remembered for different reasons regrettably. The Marathon bombings will be seared in our collective memory for their cruelty, their inexplicability and — most of all — their unexpectedness.
The moment of the Marathon Monday bombings captivated the global audience. Talking heads, pundits and prognosticators were thrown into high gear to opine on the developing situation. What ensued was an unintended lesson in modern media. The New York Post buried its own grave by putting the picture of innocent high school student’s on its front page as the FBI’s chief suspects. CNN’s John King embarrassed his embattled station by declaring that a suspect had been caught midday Thursday when no such arrest had been made. And countless other false leads and dead ends were broadcasted on “revered” news networks.
Yet, through all the mainstream media noise, the savvy followers were gleaning their news from a different signal: Twitter.
When seconds counted, mainstream media was left lacking. I sat on Friday night, riveted to the news of the chase for the second bomber, while my wife updated me on the latest developments through her Twitter feed. Who would have thought that my wife would be breaking news faster than Anderson Cooper? But such is the social media world we live in today.
What the example of the Boston bombing media coverage makes clear to me is how important social media – and in particular a platform like Twitter – is in breaking news in this day and age. Information and calls for action in moments of crises are now, and forever will be, crowd-sourced.
In education, where planning involves a large population of people and each school decision has ripple effects, social media can serve as an immeasurable ally. Every 21st century school district must be equipped with the capability to communicate on modern platforms with their students and parents. Through the tragedy of Boston, we in the education community have learned a central lesson: when news needs to get out fast, we can’t rely on the old channels.