Bluefield Daily Telegraph
We all have our morning routines. After I haul myself out of bed, I check my email and give my Facebook page a quick buzz. I joined the social networking site after years of harassment. I just didn’t grow up with computers — I remember Pong and other black and white video games — so I just didn’t think it was important. Well, Wednesday morning changed my mind.
The first items I saw were two pictures of some fire trucks and a burning building being hosed down. My blurry brain kicked into gear when I realized the scene was Mercer Street and the time was only a hour ago. I called Mercer 911 and learned that firefighters were still on the scene.
I shifted to high gear, gobbled breakfast, showered, dressed and got myself to Mercer Street. Fire stories are much better when you can get the facts right at the scene. You get a sense of what happened and you don’t have to play phone tag all day with the sources in question. It’s also a chance for comments from the folks affected by the fire.
That was all thanks to the web. If not for that morning check Facebook ritual, I wouldn’t have found out about that fire until I got to work in Bluefield.
When I arrived on the scene, Tammie Toler of the Princeton Times was there, and a few minutes later, here came Lifestyles Editor Jamie Parsell from the Daily Telegraph with her digital camera ready. She was able to shoot some video and fire a picture to the Bluefield office. They were soon on our web site.
The Internet is good for letting you know that something has happened and getting the word out fast, but you still can’t beat actually being on the scene. When I reached Mercer Street, I immediately saw a column of black smoke bellowing into the sky and smelled that harsh, acrid fire odor you get when a building burns. The fire was pretty much under control by then, but you could feel the mists coming from the fire hoses and hear the rumble of diesel engines. If you get to a fire scene while the flames are still going strong, you can feel the blustering heat radiating from the structure.
Maybe I was a firefighter or an arsonist in a previous life. I don’t know.
I’m sure a lot of folks are like me in this way: They want to actually be on the scene, but they can’t skip work or drive all the way to the fire. The Internet helps a lot, but it’s not quite the same thing. Until some scientist or technology geek comes up with a way to send smells as well as sights from the place where the action is actually happening, there will be a call for people to physically go to the scene and find out what’s happening.
There also will be a call for people who will check and make sure that the facts are as straight as possible. Facebook is good for letting you know when or if something has happened, but it’s not 100 percent accurate. Sometimes Facebook is the electronic village square where all the rumors and third or fourth-person stories meet. I learned a long time ago that just because you heard something doesn’t instantly mean that something is true. I’ve seen simple misunderstandings turn into huge rumors that scare people.
I’ll continue my morning ritual of checking my email and Facebook in the morning now that I know it could yield immediate results. Most of the time I get news from friends. Monday evening one of my friends posted a cute drawing of her little girl. I later learned that my oldest nephew, A.J., had just received his driver’s license. Motorists of America, you have been warned. He’s doing well, but he’s still learning exactly when to hit the brakes. Just a little bit sooner would be nice. Before I know it, my other nephew, Alex, will be announcing on Facebook that he has his license, too.
I originally didn’t want to get on Facebook because I thought of it as just something else I had to monitor. We have to keep track of so much now. Email accounts, bills, investments, medical records, car maintenance, keeping your living space livable, and I’m sure I’m forgetting a lot of other things demanding our attention. Some days I feel overwhelmed.
But after Tuesday morning, I have to concede that a social networking web site isn’t such a bad idea. Yes, there is a lot of babble, but some good tips swim to the surface at times. Maybe I’ll do even better once I figure out how to post pictures and use all the accessories the Internet has to offer. The first computer I ever used would fill up the average living room today, so I still have a lot to figure out. At least I now know that the journey will be worth the effort.
Greg Jordan is the Daily Telegraph’s senior reporter. Contact him at email@example.com.