#Trending: Airlines in the Headlines

Trending Assignment: Airlines in the Headlines

For the last two weeks, there have been two major stories in the news about events that unfolded aboard two different airplanes. They reached such magnitude due to the impact of “virality” on social media accounts and sites like Facebook, Youtube and Twitter.

Let’s go back to the beginning.

On April 11, 2017, a man bound for Louisville, KY was forcibly removed from a United Airlines plane. There are multiple reports of what led to his removal, but it was the video of the removal that went viral. It popped up on my Facebook and Twitter feeds for the next week multiple times.

Here’s a breakdown of the events that unfolded aboard the airplane: USA Today United Airlines Timeline

As a result of its virality, every time a new tid-bit of information was released in regards to the incident it was highly covered my the major news organizations. As a television producer, I found myself question if we had hit a boundary of too much coverage.

That brings us to this weekend (April 21, 2017).

This time is it American Airlines in the spotlight, but the elements of the story sound very similar to the event that came before it.

A video is making its rounds online of an altercation between a woman and flight attendant over a stroller.

Here are the details on that story: NYT: American Airlines Stroller Incident

Both of these scenarios present a major question: Would these events have elicited the same amount of coverage had there not been a video of the incidents being shared around on social media?

My personal answer: NO.

As journalists, we are encouraged to tune into what the people are talking about and what the trending topics are. The whole point of taking a course geared to social media is to develop the skills to do just that. There are platforms, like google trends, developed specifically for discerning what is most important to people in current time.

If there was no video proof of the events that unfolded, there would not be an element to share on social media. That was the element that made it viral. Text alone would not have the same impact.

The sheer impact of the first incident has now made the public hyper-sensitive to any follow-up news story regarding airlines and incidents.

Overall, this case of trending stories shows how news organizations are responding to the interests of the public and how social media listening can influence news coverage.

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