The 2.4 second news cycle (2011)

I turned the news on last night to see the ongoing coverage of the Arizona shootings yesterday.

In case you’ve been under a rock, a 22-year old opened fire outside a supermarket where Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was hosting an event.

From the reports I watched and read, there were about three dozen people in attendance when Jared Lee Loughner opened fire and killed 6 people before he was tackled by two individuals (Link to a CNN article here.)

An incredibly tragic event conducted by one or two deranged individuals and my heart aches for those families who were affected.

There are lots of topics to think about from a communication perspective.

First, several news outlets appear to have initially traded speed for accuracy when reporting the death of the Congresswoman when in fact, she had not died. But I think Jamie McIntyre already did a good job here.

Sheriff Clarence Dupnik’s comments in his news brief were troublesome. The Sheriff, while giving an update to the press and public on the facts of the case, continued to make comments regarding the extreme right/left radio rhetoric in the country. The following day we know that it was pure speculation on his part, but he never specified when he was providing facts and when he was giving his personal opinion, which made for a somewhat confusing brief. Not to mention the fact that he couldn’t accurately answer how many people were actually killed at the time.

The Sheriff also had comments regarding the rhetoric and discussed whether or not it has an impact on unbalanced people like Loughner. Pick your side because there are arguments for either. Does rhetoric from guys like Glenn Beck or Sarah Palin affect people like this? Should we blame the rhetoric for the actions of a deranged human being?

In addition to the above, the other thing that ran across my mind when I switched on the TV was 9/11.

One of the ways that 9/11 changed me personally is that I don’t like being away from news for too long.

Prior to 9/11 I really didn’t mind if I didn’t know what was going on in politics, government or current affairs on any given day and I stayed up-to-date by reading occasional updates during the week.

After 9/11, I found myself wanting to have constant access to news and information.

When I flipped on the news and discovered that this had been already going on for a couple hours and I didn’t know about it yet, I couldn’t believe it.

There are lots of things that have helped create the 2.4 second news cycle that we currently have. Some of it is advances in technology over the past 10 years, some of it is social media, and some of it is the changing business of news media.

Every time an incident like this occurs, I think back to 9/11 and how since that day, I cannot be away from current events for more than a few hours.

I know I can’t be the only one.


Photo courtesy of the NY Times.

Mike Nicholson

I've spent my career working in a variety of Strategic Communications, Public Relations, Public Affairs, Information Operations, and Executive Outreach positions. With a history of planning, preparing, executing, and assessing communication strategies in the U.S. and abroad, I use this site to write, think and share lessons learned on organizational communications.

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