A lot has changed in journalism over the past three years -- including the death of the Rocky Mountain News. But at least one thing remains the same: Reporters who tweet from a funeral are asking for criticism. A Boston Herald journalist is currently learning this lesson, which was also taught to a Rocky scribe circa 2008.
In recent days, sites like Boston Sports List have taken Herald reporter Ian Rapoport to task for using Twitter at the funeral for Myra Kraft, wife of New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft. Rapoport defended himself on, yes, Twitter, with the following message:
So everyone debating has the facts: There was no tweeting during the service. Only before and after. All were respectful.
He also appeared on WEEI Sports Network to explain himself further. On the show, he didn't apologize for using Twitter to cover what he saw as a news event. But there was this acknowledgement:
The only thing that I'm sort of still thinking about that I think is difficult for some people to wrap their head around is I was inside the building. I was physically in the temple... Maybe it might have been better to step outside in the reporter area, communicate the news that way and then go back in. I just didn't want to lose my seat. So maybe that's something if I could do it again I would consider physically where I was. I was in my seat. Would it have been better if I was in the hallway, in the doorway? I'm not sure, but those are the kind of things I'm thinking about.
In September 2008, such distinctions hadn't really been thought through. Hence, the firestorm that followed Rocky staffer Berny Morson's tweets from the funeral service for three-year-old Marten Kundis, who was killed when a woman with a terrible driving record crashed into an ice-cream store. Here's the text he sent:
RMN_Berny: procession begins Wednesday, Sep. 10, 11:01 a.m.
RMN_Berny: people gathering at graveside Wednesday, Sep. 10, 11:14 a.m.
RMN_Berny: coffin lowered into ground Wednesday, Sep. 10, 11:18 a.m.
RMN_Berny: rabbi zucker praying Wednesday, Sep. 10, 11:18 a.m.
RMN_Berny: rabbi recites the main hebrew prayer of death Wednesday, Sep. 10, 11:20 a.m.
RMN_Berny: earth being placed on coffin. Wednesday, Sep. 10, 11:22 a.m.
RMN_Berny: rabbi chanting final prayer in hebrew Wednesday, Sep. 10, 11:27 a.m.
RMN_Berny: rabbi calls end to ceremony Wednesday, Sep. 10, 11:28 a.m.
RMN_Berny: family members shovel earth into grave Wednesday, Sep. 10, 11:40 a.m.
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The journalism community promptly attacked the Rocky for this bizarre brand of play-by-play, with negative reader reaction likely contributing to the paper's decision to cancel another planned funeral Twitter session the following week.
Of course, Rapoport didn't write about shoveling: His tweets mainly focused on anecdotes and celebrity members of the Patriots, like quarterback Tom Brady, who showed up to pay their respects to Kraft. But he came in for a pummeling anyhow, suggesting that we still may not have reached the point where tweeting and funerals mix.
Good news? Or an example that this social medium is still misunderstood? You be the judge.