Social media adds to torrent of news


POSTED: Sunday, February 28, 2010

Online social media sites and radio and television airwaves were awash with tsunami information by the time Civil Defense sirens rousted isle residents to news of a tsunami warning.

Sites such as Twitter and Facebook were both sources of, and conduits for, information from traditional media outlets as well as individual users.

Many users were clearly watching or listening to traditional media and posting what they had seen or heard. Many of them were also outside Hawaii, watching or listening to local stations via the Internet.

KITV, KHON and Hawaii News Now, comprising KGMB, KHNL and KFVE, were all streaming their on-air signals via the Web, as were dozens of radio stations.

All station officials contacted described yesterday, from the wee hours of the morning, as an all-hands-on-deck sort of day. All on-air and essential personnel were called in, once they were able to make sure their families were secure.

Hawaii media outlets' Twitter and Facebook sites, for the most part, were constantly updated with official information and links to their own Web sites. Those messages would be redistributed by people who follow the updates online via Twitter and Facebook.

Mayor Mufi Hannemann and Acting Mayor Kirk Caldwell also used social media to distribute official information in addition to communications with traditional media outlets.

Not all of the information found on social media was good, noted Danielle Lum, an adjunct professor at Chaminade University. She will discuss the dissemination and exchange of disaster-related information with her public relations students tomorrow.

On Twitter, “;somebody had posted that the tsunami had hit”; and posted pictures. “;They were totally doctored up and you could see that they were,”; Lum said. Nevertheless, people re-Tweeted, or redistributed the misinformation to others, perhaps without viewing the falsified images.

“;You certainly don't want to be re-Tweeting, or sending out information that's not right.”;

The flow of information via social media was faster than broadcast media, Lum said: “;I'd read a Tweet about a buoy, the waves passing the buoy, and a couple minutes later I'd see it (on TV).”; Some ocean buoys, connected to buoyalarm.com, are rigged to post ocean activity to Twitter.

Social media have become an integral part of the way millions of people communicate.

Hawaiian Electric Co. used traditional media to get its messages out yesterday. Those media outlets not only broadcast the information, but also posted it online.

“;We've monitored social media very seriously and have been studying ... what is the best application for us going forward,”; said spokesman Darren Pai. The utility sees the value in correct information being sent out, extending its reach to consumers.

“;It's useful for us to see not only what information is getting out there, but also to keep tabs on what people are talking about and reacting to,”; he said.

Traditional media outlets went full-bore, with some TV stations starting late Friday night.

All major radio broadcast groups staffed up from the wee hours of the morning.

Michael W. Perry, half of the Perry and (Larry) Price duo on KSSK, described the event as a “;slow-motion disaster”; as opposed to what has happened before, having to get information out amid chaos. Most people could “;get on with their daily lives ... but for the 80,000 (coastal residents) who had to get out ... this was significant, so we were on the air for them.”;