On Sept. 1, 2010, a lone gunman walked into the Discovery Channel building in Silver Spring, Md. That was the day Mandy Jenkins first realized the true power of social media.
Jenkins, an Ohio native, was the social media editor at TBD.com, a local news website launched just a month before by Allbritton Communications and WJLA-TV in Washington, D.C.
“I think it was the spouse of someone that worked here at the TV station had called us and said there was a hostage situation happening,” Jenkins told It’s All Journalism podcast producers Megan Cloherty and Michael O’Connell. “We were able to kind of get
our heads together really before it was reported that it happened.”
While the newsroom mobilized reporters and the TV station sent out its helicopter, Jenkins began opening up Twitter searches on her desktop.
“I was trying to find people who were either tweeting from inside the building or near the building,” she said. “Try to get an idea of how we could get sources that were already inside of there. … Just by doing a lot of keyword searches and doing some location based searches around that area, I didn’t find anyone inside the building tweeting, but I did find people in the adjacent buildings who were also locked in.”
As the hostage situation unfolded, the police SWAT team locked down the area, making it impossible for any reporters to get near the Discovery Building.
But, Jenkins was already making connections with sources in the vicinity.
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