YSU faculty official: Dunn story started slow in Illinois, ignited in the Mahoning Valley


Relevant news delivered on social media spreads quickly.

The key word here is relevant.

Let’s face it — not all news delivered through social media is relevant (unless you really want to know what funny thing my dog did last night).

For the better part of two days, a story was available on a college newspaper website that the school had selected its next president. It just so happens he’s Randy Dunn, who’s also the new president at Youngstown State University.

The story was tweeted and re-tweeted to the world, but apparently only a few social media users in and around southern Illinois were reading.

A link to the story appeared on Reddit.com, a social news site where users post stories and readers vote on the relevance of those stories. Before the news hit the Youngstown audience, the Reddit post had one vote.

It wasn’t until news reached the editor-in-chief of Youngstown State’s student newspaper, The Jambar — and subsequent re-tweets of the story by The Jambar — that the story spread like wildfire on social media.

The first tweet from The Jambar was simple:

BREAKING NEWS: YSU president Randy Dunn named frontrunner for SIU president according to @dailyegyptian.

This tweet opened the Twitter floodgates to posts from social media users around the Mahoning Valley and beyond.

Some users offered information, some misinformation (one student suggested school should be canceled Monday), some speculated about the future of YSU, and others posted angry outbursts.

One student posted a comparison of this president’s quick departure from YSU to the LeBron James’ “decision. ”Randy Dunn should do a “The Decision” special and say “I’m taking my talents to Carbondale.' ”

Pithy tweets aside, it took more than a day for the story to spread on social media — because of relevance. No one really noticed the first day..

The assumption here is that the hiring of a new president at a university with a relatively small media market is a ho-hum story, even on a slow news day. That is the Southern Illinois University landscape.

Then the news hit Youngstown.

For the Youngstown-Warren media market, with several media outlets, this was a big story. Multiple reporters from multiple outlets were making multiple calls to sources and frequenting social media to find leads to tell the story.

This is when the story became relevant.

Before noon on Sunday, there were only three or four tweets about SIU selecting their next president.

As of noon Monday, there were hundreds of tweets and re-tweets.

We are going to social media in droves to get information, to learn about the world around us, to read news, to share news with friends, and to comment on the news we think is important.

With this story, and many others like it, the power of social-media users to demonstrate the significance of a story is just as important as the story itself.

Dr. Adam C. Earnheardt is chairman of the Department of Communication at Youngstown State University.

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