Last week, while working from home, I was alarmed to hear a series of sirens racing through downtown followed by what I was sure were helicopters. Having lived in Marblehead for more than 30 years, I would be surprised by this type of activity any day of the week, let alone a Tuesday afternoon, so I immediately turned on the television to see if there was any breaking news, only to find nothing.
An avid user of social media, I checked Facebook on the off chance that something may be posted. I was pleasantly surprised to see an ing of posts and responses, the best, in my opinion, coming from Patch and a local Realtor in town who leads the All Marblehead community page. Both provided a constant stream of updates and posts from other in-town residents who were out and about or following the activity through police scanners. While I was surprised that someone would rob a local Marblehead bank, I was relieved to have updated information.
As the afternoon went on and it was time for the regularly scheduled local Boston news, I immediately checked the television seeking additional coverage and updates. Sadly, due to the royal wedding and several other pressing stories including traffic updates and a woman from the south shore who was bit by a dog, there was virtually no coverage of the robbery activity in Salem and Marblehead. In fact, the only station I found that reported any news about the afternoon’s events was Fox 25 Boston and it was a brief piece with virtually no information.
I was both surprised and disappointed that a bank robbery in a town less than 20 miles from downtown Boston, with the alleged suspect(s) still at large, would not even warrant a mention. Was it because they didn’t have remote coverage to feature a live feed or video capture? Or, was it because the royal wedding was more relevant to their audience and they had made the financial investment in sending teams of people to London for week-long coverage of the nuptials? The only conclusion I could draw was that our local news today is not truly local. On a much larger scale a similar phenomenon happened in Japan just a few months ago during the devastating Tsunamis. The most up to date information was coming through social media sites and user generated content, not national and world news sources.
It’s an amazing evolution we continue to experience as Americans and individuals worldwide become more and more connected through technology. With more than 195 million active Internet users in the U.S. and more than 80 percent of American homes owning a personal computer, I have to wonder, will local news even be in existence in ten to 20 years? Like printed newspapers are we witnessing a paradigm shift in user experience and a demand for instant information that will eliminate the industry? Only time will tell, but, for now, I, for one, will rely on my computer first for breaking news.