Social media used in Jefferson City incident coverage

Wednesday, November 11, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CST; updated 1:06 p.m. CST, Tuesday, November 17, 2009

COLUMBIA — During what some believed to be a hostage situation in Jefferson City on Tuesday, people across the state reported and discussed the incident on social media.

Most notably, news organizations and many private citizens were using Twitter to find and share information about the situation at the Governor Office Building.

In the 140 characters of text allowed in a tweet, the message shared on the Web site, people communicated the news and rumors they heard. This included a number of retweets, where a person reposts a tweet that they have already seen and credits the original author.

Between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., there were 310 tweets that included #JCMOhostage, the most common indicator used on Twitter to talk about the situation, which turned out to not include a hostage.

Here are some perspectives on the use of Twitter during the incident and what effect it had on the event:

Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder

Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder was one of the first people to tweet about the incident, which he said he could see parts of out of his office window in the capital building.

Kinder's friend, whose husband is a hostage negotiator for the Capitol Police, told him of the possible situation. He also learned that sharpshooters were deployed near the building, which he referenced in his first tweet about the incident.

He said he decided to tweet about it because he thought it was “important to notify the world.”

“This was obviously a public event,” Kinder said. “And being Twitter, it seemed appropriate.”

KOMU/Channel 8

KOMU New Media Director Jen Reeves said Twitter was a good tool for the KOMU staff to use and that the station made sure its information was accurate. 

She said the station first heard of the incident when a reporter saw a blockade in Jefferson City. The station called the Jefferson City Police Department and searched Twitter, where they saw posts about a standoff.

“We put nothing on (Twitter) until we confirmed it, but I had an inkling of what was going on from what other people were saying on Twitter,” Reeves said.

While covering the event, Reeves said KOMU retweeted its reporters when they found news and also retweeted Kinder.

Reeves said she doesn’t think the use of Twitter seriously affected the situation and how it was covered and that the station would have reacted the same way on-air even if they weren’t using Twitter.

“Social media or no social media, it was a heck of a situation,” she said.

Columbia Missourian

Columbia Missourian news and opinion editor Jake Sherlock said the newspaper focused on making sure it didn’t post anything unverified in its coverage.

“We want to tweet stuff that we know to be true,” Sherlock said. “So that’s why you didn’t see us Tweeting that there were shots fired because we never had confirmation that there were shots fired.”

Besides reporters in Jefferson City, he said the paper retweeted accounts it trusted to be accurate, such as other news organizations.

He said the Missourian also trusted Kinder’s posts because it knew the lieutenant governor controls the account and that he was in the right place to be an eyewitness to what was happening.

Sherlock said he thinks the use of Twitter had an impact on how large the situation in Jefferson City became because it would only have been passed by word of mouth without social media.

“Twitter takes word of mouth and multiplies it by a factor of a million,” he said. “Without Twitter, that would have only been Jefferson City buzz, and we’d have gotten a short press release.”

Political commentator Marcus Bowen

Marcus Bowen, a political commentator and MU law student who tweeted about the incident, said he used Twitter as a “people’s press” that allowed him to share information he thought was newsworthy.

He said he gathered his information primarily from Twitter and would post it himself after he’d seen it from several people he followed in Jefferson City.

Bowen said his tweets had a different burden of proof than those of news organizations.

“While I’m not going to disseminate what I truly believe to be wrong, I am going to disseminate what I truly believe to be right at the time I hear it,” he said.

Bowen said the advantage of not having the same burden is that he can often post faster than news organizations, because they are serving a different purpose.

“You can hear it from me 10 minutes after it happened or you can hear it from the AP 50 minutes after it happens, when they’ve had time to verify it,” he said.

— Missourian reporter Rebecca Berg contributed to this report

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Toni Messina November 11, 2009 | 9:03 a.m.

I found the Tweets posted on the Missourian site to be very accessible and an efficient way to watch the story as it evolved. Thanks for "converging" this technology.

(Report Comment)
Blake Segafredo November 11, 2009 | 11:37 a.m.

I suppose the use of tweets can help get information out quickly. The problem is confirming if the information is correct or not. On top of that there are the thoughtless comments that make people look ignorant like "OMG. Hostage situation..." or “I used to work there, OMG.” I was also disappointed by the Missourian's tweet coverage, although it was neat and it was readily accessible, it crashed the site. I tried multiple times to get beyond the Main homepage, and the connection would time out or just fail. I'm not sure overall it's worth it yet, or maybe there are bugs to get worked out, but I found it very frustrating and would suggest looking at the configuration and bandwidth allowances before doing this again.

(Report Comment)
Charles Ludeke November 11, 2009 | 4:05 p.m.

"A different burden of proof?" Hogwash. Regardless of working for a news organization or not, I don't think anyone should be perpetuating rumors. In a situation like this, people shouldn't be posting things like "Confirmed shots fired" when that turned out to be false (that post has since been deleted). Bowen and other Twitter users need to have a better eye for judgment when they post.

Post to some official sources. Give me a link.

Mr. Bowen, we can hear it from you faster, but the news organizations didn't post false information. You did. I guess you have a different burden than news organizations after all.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking November 11, 2009 | 7:50 p.m.

Charles Ludeke wrote:

"Mr. Bowen, we can hear it from you faster, but the news organizations didn't post false information. You did. I guess you have a different burden than news organizations after all."

That is a problem with all direct-to-publication "news" entities like bloggers and tweeters. No review, and no standards. The reader is left with the task of determining whether what they just read was in any way true. Unfortunately, people are not accustomed to doing that, and a lot of misinformation, and opinion, gets distributed as fact.

Ask the HeartBeat how that works. He's distributed previously published news, opinion, and personal vendetta for years, and he calls it news. Real journalists have a different name for it.


(Report Comment)
Mike Martin November 12, 2009 | 7:39 a.m.

And what might that "different name" be, Mr. Foecking? And your journalism expertise to make such statements stems from where? And what might those personal vendettas of mine be? Please cite specific examples of previously published news, opinion, and personal vendetta that I'm calling news.

I did right by you, and I'm surprised you'd say such lousy things (maybe I shouldn't be, eh?).

It's not my fault what happened to you, but I'll be damned if I'm not going to report it just because you don't want to hear it or read about it. It's a matter of the public interest, whether you like it or not.

I felt like telling you this during our interview, but held back. Not anymore.



(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking November 12, 2009 | 11:39 a.m.

My, we're thin skinned, huh, Mike? And what makes you think I was specifically talking about the interview you reference? This is more about the lack of review and objectivity that self-publishers like bloggers and tweeters can have.

Couple examples (I can come up with more):

As far as your personal feeling showing through, it's pretty well known that you have a dislike for Tom Schauwecker, because he reappraised your house in 2004. I believe I read that was one of the reasons you started blogging. Here the Missourian article that describes the issue:

Here's some of your writings regarding this:

I'm not a big fan of some of Schauwecker's assessments either. But he was returned to office - guess he's doing a good enough job that *somebody* likes him.

Bill Watkins is another one of your targets from time to time:

(If the link is outdated, it's the 11/9/09 edition of the HeartBeat.)

Problem - your poll is entirely self selected (people choose whether or not to participate). For it to be a valid poll, you would have had to call or email 580 random people in the city and asked them how they felt. I'd imagine the outcome of such a poll would be quite a bit different from yours. Plus, 580 people isn't anywhere near a majority of your self-proclaimed readership of 5,216, and as I've said, is not necessarily a representative sample. But it suits your purposes, so you use it. There's no one to tell you not to.

Speaking of which, how did you come up with that 5,216 number? The HeartBeat is distributed mainly through listservs and newsgroups. Have you gone through and removed duplicate email addresses from these groups in your count? Somehow I doubt it.


(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking November 12, 2009 | 11:44 a.m.

Cont'd from previous:

Most of what you write comes from other sources. You seldom conduct your own interviews or investigations. Look at the above referenced issue of the HeartBeat. You have a bunch of stuff in there from the 'net, one from an MU email that your wife probably sent to you, and one which was correcting one of your earlier articles (do you ever call people that you feature to fact-check or confirm quotes? Real journalists often do).

And since you brought it up, can you explain the coincidence of one of your buddies-in-gentrification showing up unannounced at my house, complaining about things I had written about him, a week or two before you launched your little project? Seems very odd you all of the sudden had such an interest in a five year old case, that meant nothing to you personally, and even odder that most of your reporting should dwell on matters that you later deemed "unrelated":
Somehow I think the public is not really being served here, but you and your buddy are.

You ask about my journalistic qualifications. Well, as a researcher, I'm not a classical journalist, but I do write, and have co-authored many scientific papers over the course of my career (Google me). The standard to which these papers are written is not even in the same country as the standard to which the HeartBeat (or even your JCI and Weekly Scientist writing) is written. We publish to a level of peer and editorial review that not even mainstream news agencies do. I know inaccurate or biased writing when I see it.

Tell you what, if you're so proud of your journalistic mettle, make the HeartBeat a pay-only publication. Charge a nominal amount, say $5/month, to get, say, 10 issues emailed every month. Put up a poll, and let your readers decide if it's worth it to pay for it. You've always complained about journalists not being paid - well, Get Paid!!! Let's see what your readership is then.

A real journalist might call your blog Aggregation, Commentary, or Entertainment. You could call it "My Personal Take on Times in Columbia, MO. To call it News is quite a reach, and I'd think most of the real journalists reading this would agree.


(Report Comment)
Mike Martin November 12, 2009 | 12:40 p.m.


During our interviews, I let you abuse me, my reputation, and my motivations far more than I normally would have, without protest, because I thought then and still think the story I wrote was extremely important.

Of course, you wouldn't think so and of course, you want the issue left alone.

You seem to have your share of issues and problems with lots of people, and it always seems to be their fault, even when authorities of substantial weight say otherwise. Hence, my overdue comment that you need to grow up.

As far as your diatribe about my motivations, a lot of what we do as volunteers and professionals is driven by personal experience. I make no apologies about the personal experiences -- like Taxin' Tom -- that finally made me get off my ass and get busy trying to make a difference.

On the other hand, I see you blogging away almost constantly about all manner of social ills you'd like to see corrected, yet I never actually see you step up to the plate.

Have you ever, for instance, addressed the school board? The city council? The county commission?

Have you ever backed a candidate for public office? Held a fundraiser? Gone door-to-door campaigning?

Have you ever run for public office yourself? Ever tried to get your thoughts -- not your research, but your thoughts -- published in someplace other than a chat board where you're mostly reacting to what other people have written?

Oh -- I forgot! You were at the forefront of that campaign to get speed bumps on your street. NOT!

You talk a good game, always quick to slam others -- like my "buddy in gentrification" -- for what they're doing, but then...what?

Are you really trying to make things better, or just bitching to hear yourself bitch?

-- Mike

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking November 12, 2009 | 1:39 p.m.

I notice you haven't really responded to any of my points.

Actually, Mike, I "slam" very few people. Perhaps you should look at yourself - you're puffed up like a fugu fish because I criticized your style of blogging. In fact, a regular on your forum remarked how nice I generally was on line, at a board lunch.

I've never run for public office myself, but almost did (you wrote about it, and this is where I got the first taste of your cavalier style of journalism), and it is possible that I'll run for Paul's seat in 2010. It's likely I'll fail, but I would like to see issues of growth addressed that are not being.

BTW, what social ills? Most of the time I'm writing about technical subjects. I think you have me mixed up with Chuck or Ray. Here's a list of my recent comments on the Trib:

I did (of course) have something to do with the flap on my street, but this was an isolated thing. My having conflicts with two neighbors, both of whom had issues in their lives at the time also, might show poor judgment on my part, and quick judgement on theirs. But it certainly doesn't show a pattern of any sort. Most people are just fine with me.

I'm making my own difference, and it's a difference that is not lost on my neighbors or others in the sustainability community. I've simply chosen a different path than some - leading by example rather than by speech and organization. People will have to live more like me than like you in the future, and I can help show the way.

Of course, this doesn't jive well with a business-as-usual perpetual growth paradigm like the real-estate community sells (and helped to cause our current recession). Perhaps if your B. I. G. started building net-zero homes, I'd be a little more impressed with him.


(Report Comment)
Mike Martin November 12, 2009 | 5:00 p.m.

Yes, Mark. You brought up my story from two years ago when we exchanged emails on the other matter

That story is here:

MU Research Scientist "Seriously Considering" First Ward Council Run

It was not only more accurate but more ahead of the curve than this paper and the other paper, if you read the two responses that follow it.

It was straightforward, quoted you extensively, and I think quite complimentary.

Now looking at your response to my story, which wasn't up at the time I posted mine:

I see it as a grotesque over-reaction, capped by a veiled threat:

"But I also hope you don't meet me in person anytime soon...:-("

Just what you were planning to do to me should I meet you "in person?"

-- Mike

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking November 13, 2009 | 9:17 a.m.

Nothing in particular Mike. I am sorry for how that came off, and I agree, I did overreact. You'll notice I didn't show up at your house or anything (like another). That was two years ago - relax. And I wish you'd respond to more of my points, rather than just picking one that you feel will cause the most damage. This is how you seem to argue with others (like D a few weeks ago) and there's a level of ad-hominem in there that doesn't become you. You should be making people think rather than making them feel.

But this gets back to my original point. You didn't fact-check or communicate in any way with me before you wrote that. Perhaps you didn't feel it was necessary or that my status deserved anything more than a quick dash of an article. But you still allowed significant inaccuracies to be published.

Regarding the above article you wrote about Paul Love's mayoral candidacy, were you in touch with him at all? Did you just take what you wanted from online sources, throw in your own emphasis, and put it out there? Does he even know you wrote it? Did you actually contact him for any additions or clarifications? Not that I can tell from your article.

It again makes my point. You're labeling your blog as an "Alternative News Source". Once you do that, I submit you're no longer just writing for your own, and your readers, amusement or gratification. You've taken on another level of responsibility, and that is to present facts, keep balance and avoid conflict of interest. In many cases, I don't think you do that. And that disqualifies you from presenting your writings as "News".

Many mainstream sources are criticized these days for being one-sided, and they have levels of review that a blogger does not. I think you have to be extra careful to not just write well and convincingly (which you do), but to fact-check and add original content to your stories.

Bloggers usually do not have the circulation that radio and TV news, or established papers, do, and that is both a good and bad thing. I would hope the general public would understand that direct-to-distribution Web publishing has none of the checks and balances that traditional news outlets have developed, but I'm afraid in many cases, people just read something and if they want to believe it, they do. This is why these checks and balances exist. It's important that anyone writing "news" recognizes that.

In reality, what's the difference between what you write in the HeartBeat, and the comments I make on area forums? One big difference is I don't call what I write "News". It's just one private citizens take on affairs. It would be arrogant for me to call it anything else.


(Report Comment)
Mike Martin November 13, 2009 | 11:11 a.m.


You condemn a poll on my site for not being "valid. It suits your purposes."

It suits my purposes that Bob Roper was a leading candidate on my poll for mayor? I wouldn't support Bob Roper for mayor at all, and yet I wrote about his substantial lead in my poll several times.

I've put dozens of polls up, with outcomes I support and don't. Readers know how the tallies are created, and since they're not morons, take the polls for what they're worth.

You asked, "how did you come up with that 5,216 number?"

The number of people who subscribe to the listservs through which I distribute. If any subscribers get it more than once, they let me know LOUDLY. Yes, I have removed duplicate emails and do it continually.

(The 5,216 number does not include the hundreds of people who read the Heart Beat on sites like, my website, etc.)

You say, "Most of what you write comes from other sources."

That's what journalists do. Write from sources, whether they be interviewees, press releases, events, whatever.

"You seldom conduct your own interviews or investigations."

I didn't conduct my own interviews with you? I didn't conduct my own investigation of Jeong Im? Or the sewer billing mess? Or the eminent domain brouhaha? Or, or, or?

You're the only reader who's ever said this, with most readers saying just the opposite.

"You have a bunch of stuff in there from the 'net, one from an MU email, and one which was correcting one of your earlier articles."

I'm not supposed to get news about Columbia from the net, or an email? I'm not supposed to correct earlier articles?

"Do you ever call people that you feature to fact-check or confirm quotes?"

All the time!

You say, "make the Heart Beat a pay-only publication."

Why, when no other newspaper or news organization in town -- let alone the entire country -- does such a thing?

You say, "Well, as a researcher, I'm not a classical journalist, but I do write, and have co-authored many scientific papers over the course of my career. The standard to which these papers are written is not even in the same country as the standard to which the HeartBeat (or even your JCI and Weekly Scientist writing) is written. We publish to a level of peer and editorial review that not even mainstream news agencies do. I know inaccurate or biased writing when I see it."

But you said in 2007,

"In terms of my influence in my department, I am a fly speck. To the MMI faculty, I am a dumb set of hands that works the context of a highly regarded academic department, my light shines but dimly."

So I ask myself, what is a self-described fly speck with a dumb set of hands whose light shines dimly doing criticizing, disrespecting (e.g. lots of insulting cracks about "real journalists") and even threatening me?

I'm done here. You wanna keep this going, knock yourself out.

-- Mike

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