Tahlequah Daily Press

Editorials

November 18, 2013

Social media means officials must get in front of issues

TAHLEQUAH — For school officials and media personnel, reports of violence on campus create a paradox. When do we tell the public, and what do we say – especially if we’re not quite sure what’s going on?

Social media has changed how everyone reacts to reports of a crisis. Sometimes, the need to let the public know of a possible problem outweighs the need to confirm the problem as fact. Most kids have cell phones, and social media lets them to turn a rumor into a full-blown disaster in seconds. Any school administrator who thinks he can keep a lid on the story is not just fooling himself; he also risks being accused of jeopardizing the well-being of students, and denying parents vital information to which they are entitled.

News professionals in a school district face a similar dilemma. Our own children may be among those under threat, so it’s not just a matter of beating other media to the story. But timing is more critical than ever. Do we wait for official confirmation from the school administrators, or do we run with the story if it comes from other reliable sources?

This situation presented itself week before last, when parents and students began to text, email and send Facebook messages indicating a high school youth had a gun on campus. This followed on the heels of a threat made the previous day. Both situations may have been related to recent revelations that students were posting sexual fantasies and threats against others on so-called “confessional” Twitter accounts.

There’s nothing school or law enforcement officials can do to curtail misbehavior on social media. Even if an account is shut down, another will pop up in its place.

Parents can be vigilant, and revoke cell phone privileges when a youth has proved himself untrustworthy, but that’s no guarantee abuse won’t occur.

What school officials can do is understand how social media works, resign themselves to its sensationalistic nature, and – as Tahlequah Superintendent Lisa Presley put it – get out in front of it to minimize the damage.

The immediacy of the alleged threat at the school required the Press to use its website and Facebook page to inform the public. Though we were initially unable to reach Presley, we did talk to Police Chief Nate King, and provided what details we had at the time. Very shortly, when we connected with Presley, we posted more details, and continued doing so as the story evolved over a span of several hours, until it eventually played out in its entirety.

Although it turned out to be a tempest in a teapot, no one could take a chance. Before the Press logged its initial report, the news was “out there”; parents were already streaming to campus to pick up their kids. The best anyone could do was continue the investigation, and offer updates when things changed, even though this prompted one reader to accuse the Press of trying to conceal its “errors” by eliminating previous posts. In fact, we never deleted any stories from our website; we only removed links on our Facebook page, to avoid confusion for readers, as the story took new twists and turns.

School officials and the media have to walk a fine line. We don’t want to cause needless panic, but we don’t want to withhold details that could later prove critical. And smart administrators will act as partners, rather than telling the media how to manage the flow of information; such actions could be construed as attempts to control the spin, which is frowned upon not just by the media, but by the general public.

King and Presley did a good job of handling the communications aspect of what turned out to be a highly exaggerated incident. There will be other cases like it in the future. All of us will work together to give parents as much information as we can, as quickly as we can, but parents to keep King’s advice in mind: Don’t panic. Kids are prone to mischief, and social media just magnifies it. It’s a new world we live in, and we have to get used to it.

1
Text Only
Editorials
  • Tourism Council and chamber should cut the proverbial cord

    They are defined by two separate purposes and operate under two distinctive sets of bylaws, but years of conflicting opinions have left lingering questions and confusion over the relationship between the decades-old Tahlequah Area Chamber of Commerce and the younger Tahlequah Area Tourism Council.

    July 30, 2014

  • NSU needs to be more candid when its plans go awry

    Many area residents were disappointed to learn this week that the NSU Fitness Center, and its all-important indoor lap pool, won’t open next month, as originally announced.
    This latest delay is no surprise.

    July 28, 2014

  • Higher premiums a just reward for drunken drivers

    Over the past several years, Oklahoma has slipped in many of the polls that count. This week, we learned Tulsa is No. 4 on a list of cities with high rates of fatal DUI accidents. Is anyone really surprised?

    July 25, 2014

  • Maybe it’s time to think about having another BalloonFest

    The 18th annual BalloonFest was the last one held, in 2010. In summer 2011, when the Daily Press staff hadn’t heard anything about the much-anticipated event, we started asking questions.

    July 23, 2014

  • If you see a drunken driver, take the time to call in a report

    If you see something, say something. You’ve heard the warning, and seen it imprinted on placards at airports. In the wake of 9/11, it became a national mantra, mainly aimed at spotting potential terrorist activities. But it’s good advice anytime, and for any reason, even at the local level.

    July 14, 2014

  • City officials should stop squabbling and try to work together

    It’s bad enough that the Chamber of Commerce scandal has given Tahlequah a black eye. But if the bickering among city officials doesn’t stop, the community will have a complete set of shiners for its public face.

    July 11, 2014

  • Only full disclosure will restore trust in the chamber

    Despite pressure from some quarters, neither the Press nor anyone else who values full disclosure will be clamming up until all the facts are known, and those who are responsible meet with justice.

    July 10, 2014

  • Only full disclosure will restore trust in the chamber

    A few board members for the Tahlequah Area Chamber of Commerce are saying they’ve heard nothing but positive things lately – about the chamber itself, and presumably, about themselves.

    July 9, 2014

  • Employer-sponsored insurance may now be a ‘hostage’ situation

    When the fallout settles from the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision, many Americans might decide they’re better off with health insurance that doesn’t come from their boss.

    July 7, 2014

  • With confidence in Congress at 7 percent, time for a new slate

    Note to Congress: We don’t like you. Not at all.
    A Gallup poll released Monday, June 30 confirmed what most of us already know: the American public is disgusted with the House and Senate. The survey recorded the lowest level of confidence since Gallup began asking the question in 1991: a whopping 7 percent. That’s not a typographical error; it’s a single digit.

    July 2, 2014

Poll

Do you believe school administrators and college presidents in Oklahoma are paid too much?

Strongly agree.
Somewhat agree.
Somewhat disagree.
Strongly disagree.
Undecided.
     View Results
Tahlequah Daily Press Twitter
Follow us on twitter
AP Video
Fighting Blocks Access to Ukraine Crash Site Dangerous Bacteria Kills One in Florida Workers Dig for Survivors After India Landslide Texas Scientists Study Ebola Virus Smartphone Powered Paper Plane Debuts at Airshow Southern Accent Reduction Class Cancelled in TN Raw: Deadly Landslide Hits Indian Village Obama Chides House GOP for Pursuing Lawsuit New Bill Aims to Curb Sexual Assault on Campus Russia Counts Cost of New US, EU Sanctions 3Doodler Bring 3-D Printing to Your Hand Six PA Cops Indicted for Robbing Drug Dealers Britain Testing Driverless Cars on Roadways Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey Raw: Obama Eats Ribs in Kansas City In Virginia, the Rise of a New Space Coast Raw: Otters Enjoy Water Slides at Japan Zoo NCAA Settles Head-injury Suit, Will Change Rules Raw: Amphibious Landing Practice in Hawaii
Stocks