Tonight, as I scrolled through my Facebook news feed, I learned the disheartening news that the coffee/sandwich shop Demitasse was burning down in my old town of Thibodaux, La.
After spotting this on a friend’s status, I reached for my phone and called my old coworkers at the town’s newspaper to alert them. A reporter was already on the scene, of course. I returned to refreshing my Facebook page.
The news from the home front — in this case, my Facebook news feed and my coworkers — was grim. The Demitasse and Debbie’s Antiques, which are housed in the same building, were fully engulfed in flames.
Eventually photos and iPhone video emerged on Facebook. They confirmed the worst. The local newspaper’s web site also posted breaking news about the fire.
This event is significant for two reasons: The Demitasse and Debbie’s Antiques are treasures of Thibodaux — a town beseeched by corporate fast food chains and sorely lacking in local charm — and this is the first time I can recall watching a local news event unfold on my Facebook news feed.
Receiving news from social media is nothing new. Twitter is a fantastic regional/national news resource, whether you are looking for the latest in politics, sports or entertainment, because you can follow reporters and newsmakers. In large cities, it is also a strong local news provider, through the use of 140-character tidbits and links.
Facebook is different. It’s a site most people I know visit to keep up with friends, look at pictures and waste time. It’s not an information based site, by nature.
While the brief accounts I read on my Facebook news feed hardly would be mistaken for works of journalism, they were informative enough for me to grasp the gravity of the situation and ultimately the news hook — The Demitasse and Debbie’s Antiques burned down tonight.
That may or may not motivate people to visit the local newspaper’s web site or purchase a newspaper tomorrow to find out the fire’s cause, the extent of the damage and reactions from locals on the cultural loss when the building burned. Locally owned businesses don’t burn down everyday, after all.
I have fond memories of Demitasse, particularly its panini sandwiches, chill atmosphere and the garish ladies’ hats my friends and I jokingly wore while eating there (don’t ask). I am less familiar with Debbie’s Antiques, but I gathered that it had a rustic charm of its own that will be missed.
Not to pick on Wal-Mart, but if the Super Wal-Mart in town burned down people would not mourn it like they will the loss of Demitasse and Debbie’s Antiques. In a small town like Thibodaux, which fails to embrace its own uniqueness, this is a tragic loss. A piece of the town’s fabric is gone.
I’m shocked The Demitasse and Debbie’s Antiques are gone. I’m equally shocked I learned about their collective demise on Facebook in real-time.