June 27, 2009

News of Michael Jackson's Death: Radio Passes the Test, but the Internet did also...

Michael Jackson's death shows radio and the Internet are viable mediums that can work together to provide news and information.

However two bloggers proclaimed that the Internet crashed as news of Michael Jackson's death spread through the Internet. Brad Kava of SF Radio Examiner writes Michael Jackson's death shows why radio is still a viable medium and in the web article Michael Jackson is a test. He is only a test of the emergency broadcast system, Dean Takahashi states that the Internet is still not prepared for major emergencies.

From where I sat I can state my computer worked fine on Thursday afternoon. My source of information was Twitter. I noticed that Michael Jackson was number one among the trending topics. Although I was focused on Shaq trending at only number 5 (having been traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers earlier in the day, I hadn't been on the computer all day). I decided to follow some tweets that linked to TMZ.com.

Was this real? I turned on the radio to talk station 900 AM WURD and the host Al Butler along with guest Dr. Marc Lamont Hill and James Hill of BET were discussing a number of topics when news of Michael Jackson having suffered cardiac arrest was being tweeted furiously on Twitter.

While listening I checked out Twitter several more times expecting to see "the whale" (their over capacity symbol), but I had no problem at all accessing their website. Then I thought let's see if this is really REAL. Turn on the TV! CNN.... nothing... MSNBC...nothing OK, Fox News (you're getting desperate...)... still nothing... local TV... nothing either.

Now if TV News can't verify this, does it really exist? TMZ.com was scooping everyone, it became a surreal experience by 5:30 pm ET (2:30 pm PT). I was in disbelief regarding Michael's death because they reported that he was dead and the TV was just saying Michael Jackson was rushed to the UCLA Medical Center.

Meanwhile the local TV newscast didn't report Michael's death until around 6:20, almost a full hour later... with a full video footage neatly prepared with the announcement. The only problem was, there was a glitch and the audience saw part of the same footage earlier at the 6 o'clock lead-in while Farrah Fawcett's death was being reported on the air with the news anchor calmly and professionally stating "this is not the right video." Makes me think the news outlets already knew and were told to sit on the story until a certain time...

Even my facebook friends' status updates at 5:45 were being cautious about the news, because it was not being reported on TV. One of the local DJ's on a hip hop radio station was reporting that Michael was in a coma at 6:00 pm, and you could hear in her voice she was struggling with what was being reported on the Internet as opposed to what was on the news wire services.

How did radio work in all of this? Let's say more specifically, live local radio. Radio for the most part was able to switch topics and programming quickly. TV did not do this. It was programming "as usual" for television. I had a feeling of resolve about Michael's death because a legitimate media outlet (radio) was confirming the information that was being splashed all over the Internet. This happened well before 6:00 pm while CNN was videoing the scene outside the hospital as if the ambulance had just arrived at UCLA. The radio was giving information to a community of listeners. That's what is known as broadcasting. Kind of sounds like an Internet social network.

The events of Thursday were a defining moment in how the public gets information. A good question may be this: Where do you think the public will go first when there is the next major news event?

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