Off the Press

January 29, 2013

By Warren Kagarise

Relationships change due to social media

Warren Kagarise Press reporter

Warren Kagarise
Press reporter

The Issaquah Press is not the largest Twitter presence in Issaquah.

The most-followed title goes to Issaquah-based medium Margaret McElroy. The getaway masterminds at Costco Travel rank near the top, too.

The newspaper, at more than 5,100 followers at last count, is not the largest Twitter presence in Issaquah, but it is quintessential to the conversation.

Behind the jumping salmon avatar, I answer questions, offer encouragement and, yes, respond to criticism amid the daily stream of information.

I am grateful to dedicated group of followers on Facebook and Twitter, and I am often humbled at the importance readers place on a personal relationship with the newspaper.

The social media experiment reshaped the entire relationship. The arrangement is no longer didactic, but is instead a discussion.

Not so long ago, I must admit, the setup sounded a little too “Kumbaya” to me.

My initial uncertainty receded into memory as time passed and social media deepened community bonds. Facebook and Twitter added a much-needed accessibility to the newspaper and, hopefully, made the people inside the building more familiar to the public.

Once tragedy darkens the community — such as during a July 2010 gang shootout or a September 2011 threat from a gunman against downtown Issaquah — social media turns indispensible.

But social media is not useful only amid tragedy, although in a newsroom without a police scanner, Twitter is a vital connection to the community as events unfold.

Photos from the Salmon Days Festival documented festivalgoers’ experiences on Facebook. Come winter, inclement weather starts social media chatter like little else.

Something I read the day after the successful May 2011 raid to kill Osama bin Laden illustrated how social media reshaped the way information is shared and dissected.

The journalist Matt Rosoff described the event as Twitter’s “CNN moment” — a coming-of-age milestone — and likened to the rush to social media to the deluge of viewers CNN experienced during the Persian Gulf War.

“Twitter was faster, more accurate and more entertaining than any other news source out there,” Rosoff wrote.

In journalism school less than a decade ago, social media did not factor into the curriculum. Facebook still limited users to students at a handful of universities. MySpace, a realm known as much for spam as social networking, reigned supreme. Twitter did not hatch until mid-2006.

The most I remember about social media from journalism school, in fact, is a discussion about whether information in a subject’s Facebook profile is fair game for journalists.

The concept is not a fad, as I believed in January 2005 when I joined Facebook. I felt less skeptical in March 2009 as I signed up for Twitter.

I used to wonder if the medium received more attention than the message, but as I came to understand social media’s value, I realized although the medium is certain to change as time passes, the need to share information is timeless.

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