“Without Twitter, I wouldn’t have known what was happening.”
Kevin Bradley was 16 when John Hartman was killed, and was an alibi witness at the Fairbanks Four evidentiary hearing that was held in Fairbanks in September and October of 2015.
For Bradley, his involvement in the case went from showing up in 1997, but not being called to testify at the grand jury, to the summer of 2015 when an investigator from Dorsey and Whitney called him to talk about what happened that night. Bradley said, I had “interacted with two of the four that night, its always been in the back of my mind. I never understood how they could go from hanging out at my house on the west side then meet up with 2 others and jump someone…there were like 8 people in my mothers car, and nobody else was placed at the scene.”
Bradley hadn’t kept up on what happened after the convictions, but started following the case as soon as he was contacted. In emails and a phone interview, since he currently lives in Montana, Bradley shared how his experience was shaped by the Twitter coverage of the hearing.
Question: How much of what you read about the Fairbanks Four came through Twitter versus traditional media sources? How much came from talking to people directly involved in the hearing itself?
Bradley: “I would say my info came from 95 percent twitter, after 18 years away, I have lost touch with people in Fairbanks. (It was a strange high school reunion when I was at the courthouse). Twitter had #fairbanksfour and made it easily searchable through that hashtag. I could find other content to read, but it was Twitter that got me there.”
Q: What did Twitter coverage add for you?
Bradley: “Without Twitter, I would be a day behind in the coverage and get a condensed version. You and the News Miner folks give so much more in depth info. Random things, like telling us Judge Lyle’s instructions to the court, or that the State’s attorney’s were late coming back from lunch, gave me more of a live play-by-play that the next day’s paper couldn’t. Those little things put me in the gallery with you guys.”
Q: How many times per day, on average, did you check coverage about the hearing?
Bradley: “I have been a user since 2009, so navigating it and finding accounts is not hard for me. I really like Twitter, especially the short and sweetness of the content. I don’t like long dissertations I tend to find on Facebook.
I figured out your schedule of posting at lunch and dinner time in Alaska, and would just take a few to catch up. I used to have your notifications turned on my phone, but that got annoying real quick! I had my coworkers interested in the story and they would check in as well.”
JULIA’S SETTLEMENT DAY MEDIA TWEETS
Q: When and how did you become aware that something was happening Dec. 17, 2015, in relation to the Fairbanks Four?
Bradley: “I had been following the story since late summer, so I was updated constantly. I saved a tweet from you (@JuliaFBXLawRpt) 12/9/15, ‘big decision coming Friday.’ Then I think Lyle rejected the first offer. So I knew something was coming. I was in Vegas with my wife so I was “a little” distracted, but I was actively checking.”
Q: What was the 1st way that you heard that the Fairbanks Four had been released and what sources did you turn to for information?
Bradley: “First sources were you (@JuliaFBXLawRpt) and the News Miner twitter accounts. Since we interacted a few times on Twitter, so you were my go to. I knew I could send you questions and you were likely to know the answers or try to find them out.
I was in Vegas, and Fairbanks is not on their radar (in Nevada). I knew a decision was coming, so I would check twitter constantly. The @fairbanksfour account was pumping out a lot of love that day.”
Q: Are there any specific stories or moments from the proceedings that relate to Twitter that you would like to share?
Bradley: “I just want to say thanks for putting all this time and effort in. You added a lot of content for me and I really appreciated that. I liked that you were available and responsive to questions. You gave virtually a live play by play from the courtroom that I was fascinated with. I don’t want to say this was “fun” but… it was a fun story to follow. I was watching a live murder trial unfold on Twitter.
Even now checking back in, the four have a hearing on the PFDs, so there is still an epilogue to be written. I appreciate that you are still following that. I will always be connected to the Fairbanks Four because they were at my house that night, and Twitter allowed me to really feel like I was there for this part too.”
(Some interview answers have been edited for length and clarity.)