Two news stories came to my attention this week, both involving the micro-blogging tool, Twitter. New technologies always stretch our boundaries, and these two stories are no exception to that observation. And, they point out a traditional struggle for public relations practitioners, the ballance between an individual's right to privacy and the public's right to know.
The Rocky Mountain News recently decided to assign a reporter to cover the funeral of a three year old on Twitter. The child died after being hit by a car driven by an illegal immigrant with an arrest record. After the initial horror of thinking --what if that were my child?--I thought about the stress of having to relive the event electronically. But that's not the central issue here. The central issue is whether the public's right to know about the funeral was justified by the live streaming of events during the funeral OR if the family's right to privacy was more important. INterestingly enough, the coverage was given a thumbs down by media watchers as being bland and uninteresting.
You can read about the coverage and follow links to other parts of the story here:
On Friday, the San Antonio Express News ran a story on Imagine Fellowship, a local church which uses Twitter during its services, allowing the participants to Twitter about the sermon, with the comments appearing on a giant screen behind the pastor. Imagining I was in the pastor's place, I thought how harsh the criticism could be and how distracting while trying to speak. Again, though, the broader issue seems to be the line between individual privacy and public information.
As these new technologies can enhance our productivity and broaden our reach, we must insure that they don't also interfere with individual rights.
P.S. I would link to the story, but the Express-News Web site is horrendously hard to navigate if you try to find a story more than 24 hours after it appears.
A nice person from the church sent me this link to share: http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/religion/Blest_be_the_tweets_that_bind.html