Thursday, June 18, 2009

It's Official - Traditional Journalism is Dead (Updated)

After a few brief forays into radio and print journalism in my somewhat (very?) eclectic career, the one thing I always had a serious beef with was editors.  Particularly editors that insisted that I use the NY Times Style book (which I felt was totally obsolete).

I wrote a piece a while back mentioning this,  A reader responded "Who cares about the style book anymore if you're trying to make an important point?".

 Enter the 'Citizen Journalism wav'e that started about a year or so and my comments at the time that it was cool but needed to be authenticated at times (not to mention the fact that thousands of reporters were probably being 'displaced').  Reaction was mixed.

Many may remember Dan Rather's exit from CBS and the reason given as 'bad information' on a political piece he had produced.  Rather may have been a bit dry but he was a 'follow the bosses orders' guy, as evidenced many times in his long tenure with the network.

The reality, of course, was ratings.

This past week, the hashtag #cnnfail trended on Twitter for almost 5 days.  People, real people, from all over the world .... wanted real-time coverage of events happening in Iran.

As of earlier today, the CNN 'Internet Desk' was in full swing, delivering video from YouTube, comments from Facebook and, comments from Twitter.  It was all done with a disclaimer "We have no way of verifying this information".  Amazing.  Twitter spoke.  CNN listened.

While there's no doubt that some if it is 'spam' or 'planted', the fact is that while the BBC was already using every vehicle to tell the Iran story, many wanted CNN reporting the story, regardless of how they did it.  Twitterers even managed to get CNN to very quickly stop using the sources' names (in less than an hour yesterday) after some complained they may be putting students and others in Iran in harms way.

It's a sad reality that television news, for the most part, relies on ratings.  On the other hand, maybe it is time for the rule book to be banished.  There's always the 'retraction', 'apology' and or a beefed up legal department if necessary.

With the wholesale shift to the web continuing (much of which is NOT verifiable), it's time to engage so-called citizen journalists and the tens of thousands of others that have 'real' information.  Younger viewers would probably be all over this as wanting to be 'a part' of the news.

I know a few reporters and journalists that were early adopters of new media.  Often, they had the stories first, and if necessary (and when possible) could travel to the scene.

A short time ago, I found Fox's Julie Banderas engaging her Twitter followers for opinion of how to best implement 'the new media' (and particularly to engage younger viewers without alienating existing ones).

It doesn't matter how you feel about Fox or any other network.  Times are changing at light speed.  I, for one, think it's exciting.

You can send your thoughts to Julie at @JulieBanderas on Twitter.

The people are speaking out.

Who knows what's next?


Update 1: June 20, 2009 8 :30 PM  Fox News is running continuous Live weekend coverage of the events unfolding in Iran.  The other cable news networks in the US are not.  It's apparent, whether this piece played a small role or not, many of you are continuing to speak out. 
Update 2: At 10 PM ET CNN did return to coverage of Iran.