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Intersection of Social Media and Storytelling

I never quite understood how social media could actually add new content to the conventional storytelling in news reporting.

Until now.

Last week, I got an email from a college buddy and fraternity brother – and no, they’re not one and the same – with the subject line, “My story went national.”

My first thought – something must have gone horribly weird to warrant national attention. I suppose it’s a natural reflex to the words, “college days.”

Shame on me.

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This is the best kind of feel-good story.

My buddy Mike Wendelin is part of the Navy squadron that rescued a family of five lost in the Pacific Ocean for seven days. The family apparently survived on rain water and what the ocean served up.

That’s Mike, who’s the loadmaster for the squadron, in the shot below.

Intersection of Social Media and Storytelling image Michael Wendelin Navy squadron

For storytelling geeks, rewinding the tape proves revealing.

Doubling as the public affairs rep, Mike wrote the story for the Navy web site and posted it on Facebook. This is where the trajectory of the story takes a turn for the better.

Intersection of Social Media and Storytelling image Michael Wendelin Facebook updated Navy 469x1024

As you can see, one of the Facebook viewers asked what type of device caused the flash of light that grabbed the Navy pilot’s attention. Mike didn’t know, so he took the time to check with the rescue team. It turned out that a bottom of a soda can served as the “signal mirror.”

Intersection of Social Media and Storytelling image Michael Wendelin Facebook comments Navy

By this time, a local Jacksonville, Florida TV station decided to pursue the story. Michael passed the anecdote about the can of soda to the TV crew, which lands in the headline, “Local Navy Pilots Save Family Stranded at Sea with Help of a Cola Can.”

The story eventually catapults into USA Today with the anecdote again front and center, “With the help of a gleaming cola can, Navy pilots of a C-130 spot a family stranded in the Pacific Ocean.”

Reflecting on the chain of events, I love the way social media evolved the story in a very organic way.

And congratulations to Mike and the VR-62 Nomads!

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