Community-based social media groups have become a staple membership for professional journalists across the United States, and here at the Christian County Headliner News, we’re not that different.
We live here just like you all live here, so it would stand to reason that we use Facebook to figure out what’s going on in our neighborhoods, just like you. Not all of the goings-on rise to the level of newsworthiness that require professional action on our part, but it’s nice to know what’s going.
Personally, I’m a member of community groups for four different cities in Christian County. While they all have their quirks, there are some qualities about Ozark, Nixa, Clever and Sparta that make them all the same.
Discussions in these groups can often be broken up into distinct post-types. They are:
-Concerns and questions about the local grocer
-“Did you all hear that loud boom?” Everyone heard the alleged boom, yet we seldom ever learn its origins.
-“Boy, those clowns on the city council/board of aldermen sure did it again, am I right?”
-Recommendations for skilled trades such as plumbers, contractors, florists or crafters. For example, something called “hot chocolate bombs” were all the rage around Christmas, and if you had the hookup on where to score hot chocolate bombs, you were rich on the streets.
-“Are they having school today?”
-And finally, and this is far and away the No. 1 question posed to community-based social media groups, “How are the roads?”
Whether paved or gravel, two-lane or five-lane, suburban street or country lane, north or south, east or west, as sure as the sun rises and the sun sets, one thing will always be certain in Christian County: the people on Facebook want up-to-the-minute updates on the exact conditions of the streets affecting their exact routes to work, school or their eatery of choice. They want that road report now. Right now.
It’s as if someone has six hot chocolate bombs for sale, and if the Facebook user making the post doesn’t get on the road to go and get them right this instant, civilization as we know it will almost certainly cease to exist.
Deep breath. It’s going to be okay.
Scroll and read before you post. If your city’s Facebook group already has 20 posts from the past hour asking about road conditions, it’s a very safe bet that the roads are probably not in great condition.
When the roads probably aren’t in great condition, it’s time to follow the rule of thumb that our friends and MoDOT, the Missouri State Highway Patrol and just about every other emergency response agency in Christian County try to put forth in times of severe weather: If it isn’t absolutely necessary for you to go somewhere, don’t go.
I’ll be honest with you, those hot chocolate bombs are probably going to be gone if you decide to wait a day to get out, but is it really worth risking your life, wellbeing and thousands of dollars worth of automobile repair for hot chocolate bombs? I don’t even know what they are, to be honest, I’ve never been able to get them, but I can still answer the rhetorical question I just posed.
“No.” The answer is, “No.” The reward does not outweigh the risks involved to myself and the potential risk to others.
Before you push the button on that Facebook post, remember that you can also access MoDOT’s Traveler Information Map, available online at http://www.modot.org, or through MoDOT’s smartphone app, available for iPhone and Android phones. The map offers current views of road conditions for Missouri interstates and highways. You can zoom in to a particular location, check live weather radar, and view images from MoDOT’s traffic cameras and message boards.
Again, take a deep breath. We won’t be stuck in the Polar Vortex forever. We’ll be back to loose dogs and booming noises before we know it. Did anyone check to see if the booming noises are somehow linked to hot chocolate bombs?