Helping crowdsource a breaking news story from afar

There were no opportunities today in the Community Media Lab to help the public, but I did have the chance to help a colleague. I am not sure how much of a help I was, but from my seat in the lab I did what I could to crowdsource two simultaneous breaking news stories and feed information to Ypsilanti Courier/Manchester Enterprise Copy Editor Tanya Wildt.

At 12:48 p.m., Tanya sent me an email:

Experimental plane crash in Pittsfield – Krista and Erica heading to scene
Saline schools on lockdown after TCF Bank robbery – Sean heading to TCF, I called Saline schools and left a message. Do you have any other contacts there? I’m updating the web.
So, on our Saline Reporter and A2 Journal Facebook pages, I asked our audience if they had any information about the airplane crash in Pittsfield Township or bank robbery and school lockdown in Saline. Reader Katie Dersneh Mitchell directed me to the Saline Police Facebook page. I also checked my own newsfeed on Facebook because I have a lot of Facebook friends and sources in Saline. There were a lot of comments under April Scarlett’s post about the schools on lockdown. She wrote:
So I know the schools are busy keeping our kids safe, but it’s been 45 minutes at least…Channel 4 is running a ticker tape along the bottom of the screen, and breaking news that all 7 schools are on lockdown, and we’ve heard NOTHING from the schools. We get robo-calls about fundraisers but not a lock down? WTF?

In another post, April said:

So far I’m only hearing that the high school and maybe Harvest are on lock down because of a bank robbery on that side of town. Cannot confirm anything…except I just called Heritage and they are NOT on lock down. Good grief.
Then she wrote:
Well, they definitely need to work on their system. Robo call says lockdown is lifted, and that the schools had sent out an email earlier when it happened. I just got that email, AFTER the lockdown was canceled.
On Twitter, our followers retweeted our requests for information and links to our breaking news posts. @LoriByron tweeted:
@salinemilannews Per school communication, lockdown removed. Scent dogs were used; bank robbery suspects appear to have fled the area.
I forwarded this information to Tanya, along with an email address for Saline Superintendent Scot Graden and a link I found on Facebook to a story about the bank robbery posted by Patch.

Meanwhile, reporter Sean Dalton shot interviews and “B” roll for a video Tanya narrated about the bank robbery and school lockdown, which was posted on our website along with the story.

At the same time, information about the airplane crash story came trickling in. At 1:02 p.m., I received an email from Joyce Williams at Huron Valley Ambulance about their involvement in responding to the scene. I forwarded this to Tanya to include in her breaking news post. At 3:30 p.m.,  Pittsfield Township Department of Public Safety’s Lt. Brandon Williams also sent a press release, which I also forwarded. Tanya posted this piece before leaving for the day.
I may put together a Storify on these events, as it’s something I haven’t done yet and I could use the practice.
While I wasn’t directly responsible for getting coverage of these stories in front of our readers, I am confident my efforts crowdsourcing the leads on social media helped a little bit.

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