The first session that I went to today was presented by students at University of Alabama’s The Crimson White. At the end of last semester, a major tornado caused a huge amount of damage to their area and killed several people. While the students evacuated for the remainder of the semester, the journalists at The Crimson White stayed behind for two weeks and kept everyone well-informed of the situation.
Because they couldn’t produce a newspaper, they turned to social media. With an already well-established online presence, the community was willing to accept the credibility of the students. They would tweet back and forth with the community about places where volunteer efforts were needed. Conversations started on their Facebook page. And they even started this highly interactive Google map.
One of the things that encouraged, was to explore routes that are not traditionally used as social media. Through an email account they set up, people were able to privately submit information about those that were missing and the newspaper could connect people together. More than a thousand emails were passed through their system. They communicated some of the most valuable information they could.
While I don’t always take social media as seriously as some of the other parts of the web, in this situation especially, it can be crucial in fulfilling one of a newspaper’s most important duties.