deborah media

Unraveling Social Media One Tool at a Time

Social Media at funerals/ Tweeting a fallen CHP Officer

Let me begin with a full disclosure here. I am the daughter of a fire chief. When my Dad’s funeral was held in November 2010, I found myself leaning out of the window of the hearse, smartphone in hand, shooting photos of the police officers saluting my father’s coffin as it passed. I emailed photographs of the American flag hoisted over Main Street with the aid of a Fire Department Ladder Truck. I posted on Facebook the black banner draped over the front of the East Farmington Fire Department in my hometown of Farmington, Connecticut. My brother, also a firefighter, marched to the cemetery with the seemingly endless parade of firefighters, carrying my Dad’s white fire helmet. I shot a photo of that helmet and sent it to my aunt, who could not be there.

But I forgot all that for a brief moment when it came time to help coordinate the social media coverage for the Bay Area News Group of Thursday’s memorial for fallen CHP officer Kenyon Youngstrom, Should we really tweet a funeral proceeding, and then, gather all the photos and tweets into a Storify?  Part of me was holding back. Would that be disrespectful?

In the end, the answer was, of course, yes we should do all this, and we did. Our Breaking News team worked out the details. In many ways this was a no-brainer. This was an event that the CHP and the family had opened up to the press, and it was a public employee, whose death shook the state of California, and fellow police officers from around the country.  If we could bring the photos, quotes and color to perfect strangers who were angered and saddened by his death, then why not?

The result was a moving collection of tweets and photographs by Daniel M. Jimenez, Matthias Gafni, Erin Ivie, Karl Mondon, Susan Tripp Pollard, George Kelly and others. Editors Kat Rowlands and Patty Hannon and Kathleen Kirkwood, and our photo staff were instrumental in coordinating the coverage, which was covered as a pool coordinated with the CHP. The public nature of this, of course, played a big part in allowing us to Tweet the moving details of the day. With the permission of the family, a  local television station was livestreaming it.

Reporter Matthias Gafni explained that the tweeting was done outside the memorial service.” I only tweeted in the 90 minutes I was there before the memorial started. I just set the scene, took some twitpics of the 4-page program, list of speakers, scene setting photos of police from across nation, some details I culled from the program. Once it started, I had to focus on taking notes for story, but Daniel kept at it. Daniel, can speak more to that, but we were watching the simulcast in a separate church gym. There was a lot of people there but I didn’t get the impression anyone noticed/cared about his tweeting.”
  Here are some highlights from the day. One reporter, from another publication, added a touch of her own feelings into a tweet. What are your thoughts about tweeting a memorial service? Would you do the same?


3 comments on “Social Media at funerals/ Tweeting a fallen CHP Officer

  1. Pingback: Should a journalist livetweet a funeral? If so, how? « The Buttry Diary

  2. Pingback: Death and Social Media « Bones Don't Lie

  3. Pingback: Peaches Geldof, 'Twitter grief' and the strange, poignant phenomenon of dying online – Telegraph Blogs

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This entry was posted on September 14, 2012 by in Twitter, Uncategorized and tagged , , , .
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