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The evolution of communication

Like most of you I watched the news and Internet closely Wednesday night as one tornado after another seemingly tore our state apart.

I watched footage of a gigantic tornado turn Tuscaloosa upside down and destroy business, shops and streets that we are all very familiar with.

Another tornado shredded my hometown, Pleasant Grove.

I watched these events unfold over facebook and twitter. Two sites which are historically used to broadcast good news from whose having a baby to who had a good lunch suddenly turned into to community meeting place for “I can’t find my parents”, or “My house is destroyed.”

Watching this all unfold for my former classmates more than 100 miles away was gut-wrenching. However, it was fascinating to see how our methods of communication has evolved.

I was living in Pleasant Grove, and a senior in high school, on April 8, 1998 when a monster tornado ravaged the area. I remember standing in the basement with my dad and listening to the trees being snapped in half like pencils. And, to my surprise, a passing tornado really does sound like a freight train.

Post-storm, with no phone service or power, our means of communication were to go door-to-door to check on neighbors and friends.

Fast-forward 13 years and three weeks later, and I’m sure door-to-door was again the first reaction. But soon after the tornado passed, I noticed a steady flood of facebook and twitter posts from friends who still live there.

Each were serving as roving journalists for a town that is hardly serviced by a newspaper or television station.

In turn, they were serving me information that I was desperately looking for.

That’s a major leap in communication. For someone who is too far away to be of much help, they can be tough to read.

The pleas for help in finding family members were especially tough. But even in that tragedy came other forms of help.

People would take those cries for help and post them as their own statues, asking their friends in the area who may be able to help to help their other friend.

The trend became, I live in Demopolis, or Atlanta, or Mobile, or wherever, and am too far away to help physically, so I’ll pass the word and help find help.

Again, the evolution in communication is astounding.

facebook and twitter both are tools regularly used by this newspaper to update breaking news and, sometimes, inane events or just to say ‘hello.’

That such a tool has been embraced so heavily, and put to such an effective use in the hands of citizens is encouraging.

This is another important step in news reporting and gathering and it’s exciting to be part of it.

Jason Cannon is the publisher of The Demopolis Times.