Receiving three e-mails and two-texts from local media organizations within a few minutes will cause alarm from any journalist. It must be something serious. Something urgent. Something potentially deadly.
And if you consider Justin Bieber to be a national leader or some type of important prince, then you would probably agree with all of those conclusions. But, all I can say is that I am just glad I do not receive push alerts from the 20+ mobile news applications I have on my iPhone. I probably would have fallen off the elliptical, thinking the world was ending.
I know I am being critical, but I think as journalists we have to be, especially with the mobile text and push alerts we send out. When sending alerts, we are reaching people during some of their most private moments, in some of their most private places: in bed, at the dinner table, during their drive to work.
I have learned to appreciate and honestly love alerts from news organizations, especially local news organizations. They can be valuable when related to very local updates about weather, traffic and major crimes occurring in communities. But, when a young pop star is arrested for a DUI, do we need to cause alarm for our community?
Unless your TMZ or another entertainment or music news organization I do not think we need to.
When I see the number for the breaking news alerts come across my phone, I pay special attention to it almost all the time. I may ignore or come back to other texts from friends or family, but breaking news texts always elicit my attention right away. And since they do, I am expecting them to be something important, that will affect me or the community.
For me, Justin Bieber getting arrested doesn’t fall into that category. In this instance, I would only expect that sort of breaking news alert if I was subscribed to TMZ alerts or if he was arrested for a more serious crime like murder or if he had tragically passed away. (I must disclose, this is coming from me, a huge fan of Bieber music, who always has at least one of his CD’s in rotation in her car.)
So, before sending out breaking news texts, e-mails or push alerts, consider your audience, consider the value your stories add to the community and consider if your community needs to be alerted to the news while they are in bed or driving in their car.
We don’t want to cause alarm for just anything, even if it is going to be a trending story or something everyone will be talking about.
Lynn Walsh is an Emmy award-winning journalist currently producing national stories for the E.W. Scripps National Digital Desk. She loves holding the powerful accountable and spends more time than she would like fighting for access to public information. Follow her on Twitter, @LWalsh and on Tumblr.