Technology brings breaking news

Published 11:00 am Thursday, April 9, 2009

By Staff
Kerry Whipple Bean
Standing atop the Hourglass building on Monday morning, I looked down at a crazy scene — logs spilled everywhere, a truck overturned, law enforcement officials and onlookers in every direction.
Aside from the obvious, what struck me was that nearly every onlooker had a camera — more accurately, a cell phone camera — pointed at the scene.
I suspect every one of those photos was forwarded to dozens of people instantly.
With technology changing every day, we have so many new avenues to get our news. But the messengers themselves haven’t changed — we are the people who spread the news, whether it’s via a town crier or a text message.
Similarly, our newspaper is starting to use some new avenues to report news, especially breaking news.
We’ve had a Web site for several years, but we have recently redesigned it and added some bells and whistles to help readers interact more with the site.
We have also started a fan page on Facebook, where our headlines are automatically fed so that Facebook users who become fans of the newspaper can link back to our Web site.
With social networking sites becoming more and more popular, this is a great way for folks to keep track of their hometown — and track breaking news such as Monday’s accident and last week’s bad weather.
We’ve also started a Twitter account. If you haven’t heard of Twitter, you probably aren’t alone. Earlier this month I asked our two youngest — and arguably hippest — staff members what they knew about Twitter, and both had only recently heard of the site.
Twitter is a unique service that allows account holders to post messages of up to 140 characters each, with “followers” able to receive those messages via text message or on their own Twitter pages.
Twitter users — apparently part of the “Twitterati” — have used the site to post everything from what they had for dinner to important messages for family and friends.
One of the best uses I’ve seen of Twitter happened after Hurricane Ike last year. The Galveston, Texas, newspaper still had reporters on the island after the devastating storm hit, and one was able to update her Twitter page constantly, giving much-needed information in real time to evacuated homeowners who had no idea what was happening.
While I certainly hope we don’t have that kind of emergency here, we would be able to use sites like Twitter and Facebook, in addition to our own Web site, to get out much-needed information.
Kerry Whipple Bean is
publisher of The Brewton Standard. She can be reached at 867-4876 or by e-mail at kerry.bean@brewtonstandard.com. You can follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/
brewtonstandard.