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How Traditional Media's Coverage Of The Austin Bombings Differed From Social Media

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Gabriel C. Pérez
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KUT
Interim Austin Police Chief Brian Manley speaks to the media last month after a package bomb explodes in the Montopolis neighborhood.

What kind of job did the media do covering the Austin serial bombings earlier this year? That depends on which media you are talking about.

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Credit Gabriel C. Pérez
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UT Austin Professor Craig Watkins says traditional media filtered the conversation about the bombings through a different lens than social media.

S. Craig Watkins, a professor at UT Austin's Department of Radio-Television-Film, studies young people's digital and social media behavior. He says the type of coverage people experienced depended heavily on the sources they went to for that coverage. He says consumers of "traditional" media (television, radio and print) heard mostly from what he calls "elite" sources, such as official spokespeople.

Watkins says those who went to social media for most of their coverage got a more textured portrayal of events provided by activists and others under fewer constraints regarding what they chose to share. He says those consumers may therefore have also gotten a better sense of the community's true response to events as they unfolded.

Watkins points out the good and the bad of both approaches and says there are ways traditional and social media can improve how they do their jobs.

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