Saturday, September 13, 2008

Tweeting a Funeral?

Just a quick post to pass along this story from the Rocky Mountain News:
That feeling of being in a strange new land is a common one for many journalists today.

We're doing things that take us to places that would have been unimaginable just a few years ago. And sometimes when we arrive, we find our actions have conjured up their own set of troubles.

That was the case this week when one of our reporters was assigned to cover the funeral of the 3-year-old boy killed after two vehicles collided and crashed into an Aurora ice cream store where he was sitting.

I don't need to tell you that the story of three deaths at the hands of a driver who never should have been behind the wheel blew up into a major topic of conversation for the metro area and touched the hearts of many.

As is our custom, we asked the parents of Marten Kudlis whether we could cover his funeral. To be clear: We never enter funeral services to report on them without the family's permission. Period.

What was different in this case was that a reporter sent live updates via text message from his phone to our Web site during the service. He did so using a program called Twitter.
My initial reaction was pretty negative (as apparently many reactions were). But John Temple, the editor of the Rocky Mountain News, added this:
Most of us couldn't attend the service. But that doesn't mean we don't empathize with the family and don't want to join in their mourning in some way. Marten was one family's son before he died. But because of the way he died, his loss was felt by thousands.

One way for a news organization to help a community connect is to send information live from the service, just as we do from events ranging from political conventions to road closings to concerts and parties. We don't have to wait to publish in the next day's paper anymore. TV and radio don't wait, and people seem to value that.
While I still don't think I would've made the choice to tweet from a funeral, it does raise some interesting questions regarding the "public-ness" of our lives, the immediacy that technology provides, and the ability of that technology to connect a community. I also like how he allows that they are going to make mistakes:
We must learn to use the new tools at our disposal. Yes, there are going to be times we make mistakes, just as we do in our newspaper.

But that doesn't mean we shouldn't try something. It means we need to learn to do it well. That is our mission.
I think those five sentences apply just as well to education.

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