Cindy Brugge

A Public Relations Student

Month: January, 2013

Social Media as a News Source: Natural Disaster Case Studies

In a 2005 TedTalks lecture, James Surowiecki, staff writer for the New Yorker and author of The Wisdom of Crowds, proposed the idea that social media had become a major up to date news venue. This prediction has become more and more truthful in the past eight years to the point that people have begun to visit Facebook for the latest news before a newspaper or televised news source.

His opinion was drawn from the immense amount of raw firsthand accounts of the Indian Ocean earthquake that led to multiple tsunamis in numerous Asian countries.

Blogs with information that described how breathtakingly destructive and debilitating the tsunamis were for the victims of the storm flooded the Internet. Personally, I remember my father watching and re-watching tourist videos that had been shot of the massive waves taking down everything in their path.

Surowiecki claimed that this had been the first time that our most immediate news source was coming from the people, not the journalists. These people were not being paid to find the most newsworthy piece of evidence. They were just trying to show the world what was going on.

“What we have is an army of local ‘journalists’ who are producing enormous amounts of material for no reason except to tell their story,” said Surowiecki.

This began the modern day phenomenon of social media news. In October of 2012, we have seen that little has changed from this scenario.

When Hurricane Sandy hit the northeast coast, social media also provided an up to date news source.

Facebook was saturated with phrases like “stay safe” and “Hurricane Sandy.” In the first 24 hours following the storm, Twitter was overwhelmed with 3.5 million tweets with the hashtag #sandy. 10 pictures per second with same hashtag were uploaded to Instagram. (A total of 350,000pictures within the first 36 hours.) From all of the hurricane popularity on Instagram, the website was created to see the story of the hurricane in posted pictures.

Law enforcement quickly caught on to this social media trend and started offering information, such as directions to different shelters and taking emergency “calls” via Twitter. News stations were also tweeting the latest reports to the public.

This viral news source kept people updated with reports from the common man and allowed messages to be passed in a way totally unlike the newspaper that we find each morning on our porch step. The pictures were vividly unbelievable and the messages were coming from real people whose urban streets were flooded knee-high with water, further proving Surowiecki’s prediction that social media has become the most predominant source of the news.


Stash the Phone or Crash the Meeting: The Proper Use of Technical Gadgets in the Workplace

While a teacher’s back is turned, students pull out their cell phones under their desk to play the latest game. Mom is talking, but the teenager checks a text message from a friend and replies quickly. The boss yammers on in a meeting and a harmless facebook status update doesn’t seem like that big of a deal… Let’s be honest. We’ve all been there. However, these actions are creating a big problem for us after we leave school.

In an age where technology has an ever-increasing presence on our life, many students enter the workplace without any understanding of proper technology etiquette. Young employees may know that it’s not exactly appropriate, but it doesn’t keep them from acting on the impulse to instantly gratify their technological addiction. But where do we draw the line?

I was raised in a Baptist church. If a teenager whipped out a cell phone during service for any reason, exasperated sighs and staring eyes would shame the phone back into the owner’s pocket. However, a few years back I started attending a very enthusiastic church and I was flabbergasted one Sunday to see the assistant pastor on his phone when the senior pastor was speaking.

Later when I questioned him, he said that he didn’t see any problem with using his cell phone to his benefit to take notes, quickly respond to emergencies via text message and tweet quotes from the sermon. Obviously, I was enthralled and after two years working for that church, my iPhone became my best friend. Work-related phone use was acceptable in my work environment. However, that is not normally the case.

Most employers require that employees stash the phones from 9 to 5 and consider smartphones to be a source of interruption from work.

“Employees are required as an unspoken courtesy to put their phones down, when their superior or peers are talking,” said Paul Echols, owner of Square 205. “I prefer pencil and paper to laptops and smartphones because of the lowered possibility for distraction.”

A business owner in his late 20’s, Echols runs a forward-thinking graphic design company. His office is filled with burly young men and decorated with chalkboard walls and state of the art technology, but even he can agree that cell phones are a big  no-no in the office.

So where does that leave us? Ultimately, most employers agree that a quick status update or text to a friend isn’t a big deal when seated at your desk, as long as it doesn’t interfere with your productivity. However if you’re in a meeting, regardless of the size, put your phone away! Give your full attention to the speaker. Most agree that this simple respect that goes a long way.

Best of Luck,

Cindy | Former Intern & Current Employee at Bookkeeper Girl


This is a piece from my monthly column in the Campus Pages, called Intern-al Affairs.

See the published copy by clicking here.