Friday, December 6, 2013

Extreme Events and Social Media

As you may have heard, yesterday, Nelson Mandela died.  The BBC heard this just as a major weather system was colluding with an already higher than normal (spring) tide event to produce a storm surge like the UK has not seen since the floods of 1953.

Once this pre-recorded juggernaut of an obituary-fest started rolling, it didn't stop for hours and hours.  Not only did it not stop on the TV, but also on social media.  Here's a screenshot I took showing hours of breaking tweets from a national broadcaster that failed to broadcast how thousands of its residents were suffering.   

Whilst I don't want to make light of the event, what we had here was the unsurprisingly anticipated death of a 95 year old man, whose condition wasn't going to change in the coming hours - and a major event that would affect thousands of people if news got to them in a timely manner...  So, the BBC and Sky ignored the people and just let the Mandela juggernaut roll on and on.

After some 5 hours, the BBC finally put out a tweet asking people to send in pictures for the storm event that they'd ignored previously.  

Naturally, this caught the ire of the public who were quite rightly, very angry.  

Meanwhile, the BBC and Sky was still largely reporting that Mandela was still dead.  This was one of those events where Twitter shone through and pointed out the way forward for local news, because in real-life, it's the actual people on the ground that provide the photos and updates.

When Twitter is good, it's really good. 

(Apologies to my non-UK twitter followers that had to put up with the barrage of pictures and updates about a place they probably don't know about).