Thursday, 15 September 2011

Social Media and the Return of the Jets

Well now the hard part. For this week we've been asked to blog specifically about our experiences with Twitter.  Well I can't just say that this week won't be about the Jets because I have to talk about Twitter. If this is going to be a blog about the Winnipeg Jets than taking a week off from writing about the Jets ain't gonna fly. (pardon the pun)

So, as a way to tie the two topics together I thought I'd talk about the role that social media like Twitter and Facebook had in fueling the frenzy among Winnipeg's hockey fans over the last two years. It was two hockey seasons ago that I started to hear whispers that Mark Chipman had been having conversations with Gary Bettman about wanting an NHL team for Winnipeg. It was around the same time that the bankrupt Phoenix Coyotes were struggling to find ownership that would keep them in Phoenix. The stars seemed aligned for the Coyotes to make a return trip to Winnipeg but just as quickly as the city got excited. these dream were dashed by a city council in Glendale Arizona who agreed to foot the bill for the teams losses for the entire next season.

Well this definitely seemed like a band-aid solution for the Coyotes as they still had no prospective owners and were in the red for millions of dollars. It appeared to be a matter of time before the Coyotes or another money losing NHL team would be packing their bags for Winnipeg.
and this is where Twitter comes into the story.

I began noticing that the public hunger for any information about the situation in Phoenix became so great that mainstream media sources weren't enough to give the public here in Winnipeg what it wanted. I watched in amazement as a new rumour hit Twitter and Facebook almost every day. One day it was that Gary Bettman was golfing with Marc Chipman at Cresentwood Golf Course. Another day I heard that a secret podium had been set up at the forks for a press conference. There was the teenager seen below known in the twitterverse as "epicpuckbunny" who posted a fake news release that the NHL was returning and fooled the whole city into believing that it was true. This girl even made the front page of the Winnipeg Sun for this little trick.

Then there was the moment I knew things had gotten completely out of hand. Someone on Twitter shared a link that could track if any private Jets were heading towards Winnipeg, because if there was one on it's way, than Gary Bettman would definitely be in it ready to tell us the good news. It was at this point that I realized the whole thing had gotten a little out of hand, but it also made me realize the power of social media.

It was not long ago that people got their news from their trusted anchorman at supper time and from the morning paper. If something urgent was happening they would flip on the radio.  These days media is immediate. Smartphones allow us to get updated on any topic in real time. Facebook and Twitter allow us to comment on stories and get in on the conversation. Twitter is great for quick updates and links to articles. However, as good as social media can be for getting information to people it is also good at getting wrong information to people.

In many ways following the possible return of the team was fun not only for monitoring if we were getting a team but also to watch the way in which social media grabbed such a huge part of the story. It seemed like Twitter and Facebook weren't just there to tell the story but instead became part of the story.

I started out just wanting to know about a hockey team, but by following the story so closely I also learned more than I could have imagined about social media.