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How News Orgs Used Social Media to Pay Tribute to Whitney Houston

When the news broke that Whitney Houston had died, the world was shocked.

Social media sites lit up. On Twitter, hashtags related to Houston and her name itself dominated the trending topics. YouTube’s News channel featured her videos. Fan pages were created on Facebook. On Pinterest a search for “Whitney Houston” revealed dozens and dozens of pins. Videos and photos, from album and magazine covers to more candid ones, created what Poynter’s Julie Moos termed a “scrapbook of her career.”

While some news organizations covered it in the usual way with the standard obituary, videos, and slideshows of photos, others took Houston’s untimely death as an opportunity to experiment with using social media to pay tribute to the artist. A few outlets, such as Mashable, created Spotify playlists to honor Houston.

In particular, there were three that stood out and used social media tools to create particularly effective memorials to Houston.

A Pinterest Remembrance Board
The New York Daily News took Pinterest to a new level with its “Whitney Houston, Remembered” board.

This was the news organization’s first board on Pinterest. Not only was the paper able to capitalize on the extremely popular new social network, it also used Pinterest to engage with readers. The site’s Twitter account, @NYDailyNews, and Facebook page solicited picture recommendations from readers.

“I saw that the New York Daily News‘ followers on Twitter and Facebook were quite moved by the news of her passing, that they wanted to talk about her and about her work, and I tried to think of things we could do efficiently that would be useful,” Anjali Mullany, the site’s social media editor, said via email.

Mullany described the board as “a visual, evolving history of Whitney Houston’s career” and said readers suggested photos like the cover of her album “Whitney” and of her performing the National Anthem. The board also only used pictures and images that Mullany and her team could source and verify, she said.

The Pinterest board, as well as a Spotify playlist, are embedded in the site’s coverage of Houston’s death.

“There is something about the collagey format of Pinterest that feels right in this instance, it serves a different purpose than a timeline would,” Mullany said.

Celebrity Twitter Reactions Get Storified
Almost immediately after about Houston’s passing, two Storifies were created that curated celebrities’ Twitter reactions to Houston’s death.

Anthony Quintano, NBC News’ senior community manager, and Brian Brownstein, a columnist and editor with the Austrialian paper The Sun Herald, could have both gone with the more common “Twitter Reacts…” Storify. Instead, they used it to showcase how celebrities were reacting — a great use of both Twitter and Storify.

Brownstein’s Storify, which is the first one connected with his Storify account, already received more than 77,000 views in the first two hours it was published.

Quintano said he decided to focus on the celebrity reaction because he noticed a lot of the celebrity tweets were about how Houston was an inspiration to them.

“The reason I thought to do this was because of the icon Whitney Houston was to the entertainment community and the world,” Quintano said to me via email. “Twitter has become the outlet for celebrities to comment on news and I knew curating those comments would be powerful to share.”

#FavoriteWhitneySong Trends on Twitter
The Daily Beast also engaged its readers in its tribute to Houston via the hashtag #FavoriteWhitneySong.

Brian Ries, social media editor for the Daily Beast and Newsweek, said by email that his team initially planned on asking readers to contribute their nominations via comments or email, then “decided due to the breaking news nature of the story it would be best to ask our followers on Twitter to nominate their favorite songs.”

“Within ten minutes or so it was trending worldwide. So…a huge reaction,” Ries said. “At that point it was well beyond just our audience participating, so we went with it — retweeting a few to keep people going and watching with awe at the stream of nominations coming in.”

In the first hour after @TheDailyBeast tweeted the hashtag, it was mentioned more than 1,000 times, according to Topsy. Of course others not related to the Daily Beast could have been using the hashtag. It was, however, still a great way to reach out to readers and help them celebrate Houston’s legacy.

Did you see any other news organizations use social media in an innovative way in marking Houston’s passing? Let us know.

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