Policing Goes Viral

01.06.2015

tags: Social Media,

discussion: 0 comments

By Linda McSweeny

From the June 2015 issue of the APJ.

In April 2013, criminologist Alyce McGovern was sitting in New York City’s Washington Square Park quietly scrolling throughFacebook and Twitter when social media went into overdrive. Bombers had struck the Boston Marathon killing three people and maiming more.

As traditional newsrooms scrambled to assign reporters to the story, the Boston police?armed with smartphones and Twitter and Facebook accounts?were flooding social media with updates. By the time the manhunt was over, they had trumped traditional media, confirming the capture of the bombing suspect with the Tweet: “We got him.”

This transformation of the Boston police from a reactive agency dependent on the media as an intermediary, to one that controlled its message was no surprise to Dr McGovern, who is a senior lecturer in criminology in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. She had just penned the final chapters of her first book, Policing and Media: Public Relations, Simulations and Communications, co-written with her former PhD supervisor Dr Murray Lee. The book outlines the changing pace of police media policy, arguing the use of social media and reality television is positioning police as publishers in their own right, sometimes even enabling them: “…to bypass traditional media altogether”.

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