The stories behind the stories: February 2012
Whitney Houston’s death, the threat of snow, and redistricting topped the headlines this month. Below are the stories behind the stories.
Twitter breaks news
Whitney Houston’s tragic death on February 11 shocked the nation. Notably, news of her death was first reported on Twitter by a niece of one of Houston’s staff, 27 minutes before mainstream media broke the story. Many people first heard about her death from friends on social media sites, instead of through mainstream news. We expect to see more citizen journalists and everyday people breaking news on social media before the traditional media does.
Localizing national news
When Minnesota news outlets got word of Whitney Houston’s death, they sought ways to localize the story. Some media outlets, like WCCO and the Duluth News Tribune, interviewed Minnesota natives who knew Whitney Houston. KSTP even produced a story about Saint Paul music store Cheapo Discs selling out of Whitney Houston CDs on the day she died.
From snow storms in the winter to thunderstorms in the summer, the Twin Cities media loves to sound the alarm at the mere threat of snowflakes or raindrops. Perhaps it’s our fascination with big storms or the fact that weather is one of the few communal events that we still experience that drives this media frenzy. But we may now be reaching a tipping point where the hype about a potential snow “event” is more intrusive than having to deal with the actual snowfall.
As much as Minnesotans likes to think of ourselves as being special, hyping snowstorms is not really all that new. The term “snowmageddon” was first coined in Canada in 2009, and President Obama has even used the term to describe a February 2010 Washington, D.C., snowstorm.
In case you want to follow the hype about this week’s snow storm, follow the hashtag #snownami or #mnstorms on Twitter.
Telling the redistricting story
Minnesota redistricting maps were released on February 21, making the media scramble to report about it in a way that was interesting to their audience. MinnPost provided arguably the best, most comprehensive redistricting coverage by posting a user-friendly map that allowed people to see how redistricting would affect their legislative representation. Also, Patch sites throughout the metro did a good job quickly writing stories about how redistricting would affect their coverage areas.
The statewide daily papers struggled with how to cover such a far-reaching story that affected each community in different ways. Both the Star Tribune and Pioneer Press focused most of their coverage on the fact that U.S. Representatives Michele Bachmann and Betty McCollum will be in the same district. Because Bachmann is a polarizing national celebrity, articles about her draw a large readership. However, this onslaught of fourth district coverage caused other redistricting stories to be left out of the statewide coverage.
Hyper-local PR teams
As hyper-local news coverage expands throughout the United States, some national corporations, including Target, are trying to capitalize on this desire for local news coverage by employing PR professionals in regional markets. Target’s field public relations teams are responsible for increasing the company’s local presence in markets across the country.
While many companies hire public relations firms to handle regional PR activities, Target is unique in that the members of its regional PR teams are Target Corporation employees, many of whom have spent time at the headquarters learning about the brand and the retail landscape.
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