Here we go again.
It’s springtime in our little college town, a time when intoxicated young men light fires, throw bottles and end up in the stir — 53 per the latest count. On the positive side, Kent State’s student journalists were all over the story that unfolded last night. You really should check it out. Details here.
Our student scribes were on the scene quickly, as they could see the College Street “couch fires” from their offices one block away. Excellent coverage — including these stunning photos — was up on KentNewNet almost in real time. NewsNet Editor Kristine Gill became the primary source for a page-one story in the Akron Beacon Journal and photos for that story were supplied by the Kent Stater’s Daniel Doherty.
I learned of the riots when I checked the magic Twitter machine about 9:45 last night and I saw a number of my “buds” posting eyewitness reports. The first to catch my eye was from Kent JMC alum @mjenkins, who is social media editor for the Cincinnati Enquirer. Mandy was one of many contributing reports and reactions — including one that simply exclaimed: “Gas!!!” (a reference to the teargas used by police). You’ll can find more here and here.
I jumped into the tweetfest hoping to learn more, but also to share the fine work of our students with my corner of the Twitterverse. After a few messages, I was joined by two of my Twitter pals who also teach PR, Robert French (Auburn) and Karen Russell (Georgia). While we were impressed by the coverage by student journalists, we were equally taken by the role Twitter played in the story. It added a human insight in real time — another reminder that in a wired world we’re all journalists to some degree — for better or worse.
I learned in a tweet from Daily Kent Stater Editor Tim Magaw that Twitter updates from the scene were being posted to KentNewNet. I also learned in another of Tim’s tweets that KSU President Lester Lefton would have “no comment” on the incident. I cringed, but wasn’t surprised.
Street riots like this don’t do much for our university’s reputation. And the Twitter buzz only amplifies the problem. But this is “news” in 2009 — it never sleeps, and everyone gets to play the game. Everyone except our administration, it seems.
It was interesting to follow the eyewitness reactions on Twitter. But in the end, those seeking facts, details and imagery will find little in social media. They will find it on KentNewNet — the digital version of our campus newspaper.
Last night, a bunch of young professionals posted their “homework” for the world to see. And they nailed it.
Update #1: Not one of these fine student journalists working on last night’s story ever set foot in one of my classrooms. They’ve all been tutored and coached by some of the finest news professionals every assembled in one J-School. If this story tells us anything, it’s that the world needs these news “professionals” more than ever — in the field and in the classroom. They help us sort it all out. Twitter does not. (Opps! One of the journalists covering the story did take my PR Case Studies class. Then he switched his major to broadcast news. Hmm! Kudos to Kyle Miller for some outstanding footage despite that “crappy camera.” I’ve since learned, via Twitter, that some of Kyle’s footage ran on CNN. I’m told other networks — ABC, CBS and Fox — also picked up footage from Kent State journalists.)
Update #2: If you’re reading the detailed coverage on KNN, you may or may not perceive a bias against the police. For a comparison, check the coverage by our local daily, the Record Courier. Stories in KentNewNet and the RC indicate an aggressive police reponse may have contributed to the mayhem. I wonder who’s gonna sort all this out.
Update #3: No more updates, I promise! I’ve plugged in some new links, fixed a few typos and clarified some points since first posting this. You can trust me to be transparent. No one is paying me to do this!