Ted Kennedy and Twitter

An interesting sidenote of the events over the last week to honor Ted Kennedy was the family’s use of Twitter and a website to keep the media and public informed. @kennedynews was updated 137 times between the evening of August 26 and the late senator’s arrival at Arlington National Cemetery the evening of August 29:

Updates included details about arrangements as the week progressed, information on who would speak at the Friday memorial service, famous quotes from Kennedy himself:

Updates as the procession made its trip from Hyannis Port to the JFK Library and Mission Church, including this one as it departed for Hanscom Air Force Base after the funeral Saturday:

And as it arrived in Washington DC:

The tedkennedy.org website was almost constantly updated with information: arrangements and schedule for the events on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, motorcade route (PDF) and places where the public could view the procession, public visiting hours and Memorial Service at the JFK Library, live video of the Memorial Service, pool reports from the press, and Color and Guidance Updates for Press.

A significant effort was invested in keeping people directly informed, and making as much as possible available to people who couldn’t be there in person. It gave the Kennedy Family the ability to manage information related to the events in a way they couldn’t have done if coverage was completely left up to the press. Documents like the Color and Guidance Update for Press are nothing new – these are regularly handed out to members of the media to provide background and facts during news events – but the fact that this information was posted directly on the website, where anyone could read it, gives the public the ability to see the unfiltered information. That’s a good way to ensure accuracy in press coverage.

This was a lesson in providing information quickly, using multiple channels to reach people as quickly as possible, and posting everything, including the funeral program (PDF) that was distributed at the basilica) and materials for the press, so that anyone who wished to could participate almost as fully as if they were there.

From the standpoint of history and historians, it’s amazing that we’re now able to document so many details about major events. I imagine that historians in the future will be astonished at the abundance of information at their disposal.

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