I received this week’s missive from Gord the day after having just completed a listener panel which included some discussion on where listeners go first for news (it wasn’t radio).
Gord graciously allowed me to post his memo here. Some will view this as another indictment of traditional media, but they'd be missing the point.
While watching TV coverage of the Stanley Cup celebrations inside the arena, CBC cut to video of a burning police car outside their studios. From that point on, I was scanning the channels seeking more information.My mistake Wednesday night was not digging deeper than the #canucks and #nhlplayoffs hashtags I was following on Twitter for the game or searching Facebook for updates.
I defaulted to what I was watching on TV, the tried, true and dependable CBC. It appeared their coverage was struggling, resorting to sensationalizing events they couldn’t support with video. Finally, when I was able to find other sources, the images were of police were guarding empty intersections and video of stragglers trying to find their way out of the downtown core. One channel even included night shots of street cleaners peacefully making their way down Georgia.
Those images did not even come close to what I saw early the next morning. Nor did it have the impact of the aggregated videos and pictures that began spreading yesterday afternoon.
The real story of the rioting was portrayed online, much of it through social media. Thousands of images and videos were taken from hundreds of perspectives. In fact, there was criticism that the people who passively stood by to document the destruction and violence were part of the escalation.
As it turns out, the very same documentation that may have been a catalyst to the crime is now evidentiary in arresting the criminals. Blogs, Tumblr, YouTube and Facebook pages are posting the faces of thugs caught in the act in order to publicly expose and identify them.
It is working with a vengeance. The public has provided names, backgrounds, even phone numbers of the identified. Apparently some have already been arrested.
Now, today there are fears expressed that the vigilance has devolved to vigilante with inaccurate accusations and intense personal attacks on people whose status updates are deemed contrary to current popular opinion. Young Offenders Act infringements have also been cited.
But it was also Twitter and Facebook that created the ground swell movement to motivate hundreds of volunteers to team up and clean up the mess left by rioters.Through this, a wall of positive reinforcement rose from the sheets of plywood covering broken windows. Heartfelt comments written by real Vancouverites, ensuring us and the rest of the world that the ugly Vancouver they were exposed to Wednesday night is not the beautiful Vancouver we all saw, experienced, and loved during the 2010 Olympics.
I suspect social media will play a big part in our understanding of what happened to us Wednesday night and how we will move beyond the tragedy and feel optimistic about the future.