a newspaper man adjusts his pen

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The techno generation gap

Allegheny Power executives, from left, Jim Myers, Rodney L. Dickens, Mike Doran and Mark Myers appear today before the Pennsylvania House Policy Committee to explain the company's response to a disastrous snowstorm last month.

By Scott Beveridge

SPEERS, Pa. – The older guys - those from fire departments and the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency - sat front and center today to explain to state officials why some people claim they let local residents down last month in their response to a disastrous snowstorm.

The younger, better dressed executives sat in the back rows at the Pennsylvania House Policy Committee hearing into the storm response with their cell phones in hand, tuned into the live news feeds some journalists were filing from the room.

"We're following you on Twitter," one of those technology-minded guys told me after I had just updated the Observer-Reporter newspaper web site with a fresh report on the testimony.

His statement seemed to cement the problems news agencies face in adapting to social media with some staff members who resist the rapidly-changing ways in which breaking news is being delivered. So many reporters are still holding pens to notebooks and then taking even longer time to get their stories to print when that method of telling stories has been quickly losing an audience.

Yet, the comment from the audience member about our Twitter feed spoke to an even broader issue relating to a new "generation gap" facing society.

A generation ago, the big understanding gap existed between young adults who opposed the Vietnam War and their parents who then seemed to be living on another planet.

These days, we are separated in a big way between those who get the Internet and those who still pick up the telephone book to call the local florist. This distance knows no age group.

My 80-year-old mother has better Web skills than do many of my colleagues in the local media. An older friend who lives nearby uses Skype with ease to Web chat with her young granddaughter a continent away in San Francisco.

Those who don't get it often say Twitterers, Skypers and Facebookers have way too much time on their hands. In many instances they are right when they point to employees who eat up the payroll via their unchecked addictions to blogs and such.

The criticism from the uninformed, however, also speaks to its hesitation to climb out of the modern dinosaur age.

If only those who are being left behind knew how much time, trouble and money can be saved through effective use of the technology at hand these days.


MJ said...

I wonder if their testimony broadcast live on Twitter changed how the execs responded to more questioning. Good for you for keeping them honest about the slow reaction to the storm by instantly updating their answers.

wireman5 said...

Great job on keeping these guys honest. Its obvious that greed has overcome their responsibilities in providing first class services when everyone pays their hard earned money to lavish mamgement with awards and massive bonuses. Typical unregulated corporate protocol.