Social media puts pressure on traditional media

Vernon Cesta and his crew opened shop in downtown Youngstown last week with their V2 Wine Bar Trattoria. It opened on the ground floor of The Federal Building — one of the most exciting downtown residential-commercial projects in years.

The Gatta company was right on target with this Federal project: It nailed the restoration; it priced itself perfectly for full occupancy when it opened to residents late this summer; and it landed a great first-floor restaurant in Team Vernon.

In short — V2 was a much-watched, much-anticipated opening. So when they quietly opened with cocktails only (no food) one Friday ago, we were excited to get that good news in The Vindicator.

And that’s where we hit a bump, and it’s a precarious bump in this day and age.

V2 wanted us to hold off on the news for a few days — until they had food operating and all the principal folks were on site. It was a fair request, and one we’d love to have accommodated if not for the anticipation of their opening — and one other key reality.

Or maybe it’s 500 million realities.

That’s the number of people in the world with Facebook accounts. And more than 200 million people have Twitter accounts. Apply that millions-person army with smartphones, and you have a nonstop news machine that can’t be asked to not report and wait until next week.

When Osama bin Laden was killed, the incident wasn’t first reported by The New York Times or The Washington Post, but by a Pakistani citizen in his house using Twitter. That guy was unknowing as to exactly what was going on, but he still was the first to detail the storming helicopters and troops.

Social-media usage is a worldwide force, and it extends to the streets of the Valley. I can tick off more than a few news items I learned through following friends’ Facebook pages.

A media study from the Pew Research Center still listed newspapers as the leading source of important community news. A study said 74 percent of Americans have a newspaper in their hands once per week. But in those reports, “Internet” was ranked almost equal to newspapers as the top news source — outdistancing other media forms. That term “Internet” excluded newspapers, but included Facebook, Twitter and various independent, nontraditional social-media websites.

And that’s where we get back to the community excitement for V2.

Traditional media, as we’re easily identifiable folks, can get “scheduled.” Often, it can be an agreeable event, such as a group that met with us last week about an important news event to come. Yes, it was “news” when they told us. But we exercise flexibility with some news events based on many issues — most importantly if delaying does not compromise the general public or our relevancy.

But when you’re in a high-profile situation, it’s more difficult to schedule news.

You can schedule around traditional media like us. But how do you do that to 2,000 or more people who are downtown on a weekend (It’s 10,000 or so more when a Youngstown State University football game is playing.)

There is no control over someone standing outside or inside the new place and Facebooking or tweeting: “Hey — look what opened downtown tonight!!!”

The many people who are apt to do that are each connected to several hundred friends. All of a sudden, with a “send” from the iPhone of a bunch of people sitting at your business, as many people know about that opening as they would from The Vindy.

What’s challenging is that traditional media get judged more harshly than Facebook pages from “Sue Smith” or “Pete Jones.”

When a few thousand people drive through downtown and are surprised by a significant business opening, among the things they will judge is: “Why wasn’t something in The Vindy?”

That judgment then extends to placing a lack of value and trust.

And, bit by bit, it’s death by a thousand tweets.

Some could say, “I’m fine with the death of traditional media.”

But without efforts from traditional media, you don’t have light shown on government actions, or on open-court records, or anger over a teen in a dog costume at a busy intersection promoting a business (from this week).

So in the end, we ran a small item on V2 in our paper the next day.

It was not as prominent as we would have liked. That had to wait for several days.

But we salvaged some relevancy, which seems to be challenged every day, tweet by tweet.

Todd Franko is editor of The Vindicator. He likes emails about stories and our newspaper. Email him at He blogs, too, on

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