By Steve Outing
Here’s an interesting excerpt from an ABCNews.com story about today’s horrific Virginia Tech shootings:
Many students were looking online for information about schoolmates. Some of them established a so-called “wall” at Facebook.com to share what they knew; others turned to MySpace.com.
“Many of us are all worried about our friends, so lets do this. If you are okay!,” wrote a person on Facebook who identified himself as Carlos “Mohawk Monday” Fernandez. “Please update your status in facebook to say something like ‘i’m okay.'”
The campus web system was quickly overwhelmed by e-mail traffic, and concerned online visitors, after news of the shootings broke. Students said they could not get on Virginia Tech’s site for information.
“I’ve talked with dozens of students today,” said Jeff Hancock, an Assistant Professor of Communications at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. He said, “Everyone is using … facebook. I’ve been using facebook to book guests … and VT students are using it to spread word quickly, account for friends and provide support for one another.”
While I’m not sure than any news organization serving Blacksburg, Virginia, or the surrounding area could possibly get enough traction to serve the need that Facebook is serving with this story involving a campus community, this does point out one of the major shortcomings of the websites of “old” media.
When traditional media doesn’t serve the needs of the community — in this case, for people involved in the story because they may have friends or family members at the school to learn the fate of those people — then people turn to services that do. In this case, Facebook.
There will be lessons to be learned from this major story.