On Wednesday, January 13th I logged on to my Twitter account to find my home page cluttered with tweets about Haiti. Friends and celebrities were telling me how I could donate – but to what? At that point I had no idea. It wasn’t until I ran across a tweet by @TIME that said “See photos of the devastation in Haiti http://bit.ly/5Ia7gL” that I began to understand what had happened. The news of the earthquake had spread so fast through social networking that I was already expected to know and, even more, to donate.
Pew Research Center for the People & the Press divulged that “Haiti dominates the public’s consciousness,” while at the same time revealing that:
More than one-in-ten Americans (13%) – including 24% of those younger than 30 – say they have gotten or shared information about the Haiti earthquake through Facebook, Twitter or another social networking site.
In fact, as this table from people-press.org shows, the web is slowing working its way into place as the leader in news communication, especially among young adults.
Despite this increase in use of the web for speedy news and communication, there is still a lack of quality among the reporting. New media and social networking may have created a faster means to spread awareness, but the journalistic skills behind it still need improvement.
One aspect of journalistic writing that seems to disappear in many blogs is the use of one specific story to illustrate the whole. Reading about the number of deaths, the action different governments are taking, the relief efforts of various countries can only capture an audience for so long. To really make a reader feel the impact that the disaster had on this country, bloggers need to reach their audiences on a personal level. Bring it down to earth, something that others can relate to. Telling the detailed and emotional story of one family will express the heart-wrenching stories of many. Such detail cannot be expressed through short blog entries; it requires in-depth investigation and time.
Bloggers, especially ones that hope to provide news, truth, and real stories, should use every aspect of multimedia to their advantage. Show high-quality photographs that stop the viewer’s heart. Include videos that bring tears to the viewer’s eyes. Write articles to add depth, detail, and information to the visual stimuli that will capture the audience. CNN’s Reporter’s Notebook does this best, as its entries specifically cover “what images can’t convey.” However, the web page would have been much more captive had the writer(s) included stunning images to supplement its writing.
There is so much opportunity among new media to really capture an audience and show them what is happening in Haiti, or any other news event for that matter, but I have yet to see someone challenge its potential.