Posts Tagged ‘Connecticut’

Life’s a Derailment: On Train Wrecks, Social Media and Language

May 20, 2013

Metro North pass from New Haven to New York.

Metro North pass from New Haven to New York.

Last week’s train wreck in Bridgeport, Conn. literally and figuratively hit close to home. Since moving to Hartford last August, I’ve become a de facto part time New Yorker. I’ve probably ridden the New Haven to Grand Central Terminal Metro-North line and back close to 40 times. In fact, I took that same Metro North line into The City on Thursday afternoon, about 24 hours before the two trains collided. If a colleague from Georgia had not invited me to a Yankees game on Saturday I could have just as easily been on one of the trains that got derailed. As it was, the only thing that got derailed were my return plans. Nevertheless, I thought I’d share a few observations from my 80 hours in New York this past weekend.

SLOMO: There are different cute acronmyns like “SLOMO” to describe the current era of (news?) media as one that should focus on Social, Local and Mobile. This focus bore out during the train crash. I first learned of news of the Connecticut train collision on Friday afternoon through a push notification to my iPhone through my Associated Press (AP) Mobile APP. One of the ways journalists use social media is to find local sources for a given topic. Over the weekend, I saw numerous tweets from my local newspaper, the Hartford Courant, looking for Connecticut residents who regularly commute to New York for work willing to speak with a reporter for a story he was working on. I first learned about cancellations in train service from New York to New Haven (and all the way to Boston) through Metro North’s Twitter account (it was a retweet of an Amtrak announcement). Social? Check. Local? Check. Mobile? Check.

User-Generated Content: A group of teenagers were skateboarding at the nearby Rampage skateboard park when the two trains collided. They skated to the scene of the wreck and recorded the powerful footage of the crash you see below (warning: foul language). Many news outlets reported and linked to this footage, as is common to supplement traditional reporting with so-called user-generated content (UGC), particularly for breaking news stories.

Language and Word Choice Matters: My first 48 hours in New York were wonderful. I went to an excellent panel discussion on excellence in television at the Paley Center, reconnected with former students and colleagues from the University of Georgia, had drinks with my favorite Bloomberg reporter and explored new areas of the city in three Boroughs (walked the High Line in Manhattan, visited the Museum of Moving Images in Queens and took in the sunset at DUMBO in Brooklyn). The rest of the weekend went poorly. My friend’s flight got delayed so I went to the Yankees game solo. The Friday derailment left me semi-stranded and scrambling to find a way home. This meant I had to miss graduation at the University of Hartford on Sunday so I was deprived seeing my students’ crowning achievement and celebrating a wonderful year with colleagues. And it rained all day Sunday. When people asked how my weekend went, I found myself starting to respond with a phrase like “oh, it was a train wreck.” Or “it was a disaster.” But in light of an actual disaster of a train wreck, such common hyperbole that we use in our everyday language seems silly and ridiculous. The reality is I just had a bad day. Plain and simple.

Roll with the Punches: Even the best laid plans can go to waste. I took an Amtrak train from Hartford to New Haven and then hopped onto Metro North. After the train wreck (the real one), I was no longer able to get back to New Haven on Sunday to catch my return trip on Amtrak back to Hartford. No graduation for me. I was one of the hundreds? thousands? of folks in New York whose means out of the city were disrupted. I had to scramble to get a late bus back to Hartford. My Georgia colleague’s flight to New York got delayed so he had to miss the Yankees game. As work was being done on the Subway stop where I was staying, I had to figure out how to navigate the New York subway system. I didn’t see everyone I wanted to. I didn’t do everything I wanted to do. But in the end that’s life. Life is full of tiny derailments. We laugh about it. Smile about it. Find a new way home. And move on.

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