Observing vs. reporting

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, June 17, 2009, 5:30 PM | comments: 3

In a somewhat late follow up to the same blog post by Scoble I mentioned a few days ago, there's a guy who exactly got what I was after:

You don't get "breaking news" with Twitter. You get "breaking observations". Did those people that saw the plane splash into the Hudson know WHY it had to land in the river? Did they know the flight number? Who the pilot was? What his conversations with the tower were? What options he was given before having to land in the Hudson?

If I see a car crash, and I blast it out on Twitter, I'm not "reporting", I'm observing. I have no idea if one of the person in ths crash was drunk, they had brake failure, or anything relevant to the cause.

Have you ever seen a reporter trying to "report" something "real time" on TV? They are HORRIBLE. Because all they are doing is telling you what they are seeing. They are giving you no context, no insight, no background, nothing. That is what Twitter provides when people think they are "reporting" on something. Not saying it's bad. Just different from real news reporting. Those that believe that it is just as good, or better than actual reporting are delusional.

That's an even better distinction than the one I made about quality vs. immediacy. As media continues to evolve, I hope that this distinction is not lost, because it's too important to understanding.


Skydiving Jeff

June 17, 2009, 6:30 PM #

If anyone is truly using Twitter as their sole means of gathering news, then I think the failure isn't on the service but rather the moron who can't understand the difference between several column inches of text and 140 characters.

The benefit of Twitter to news gathering however lies precisely in the "observation" arena. So often news goes unreported because the media isn't aware of certain events taking place; now while some outlets have used communication channels such as police scanners and the like to pick up on breaking situations, Twitter has the capability to relay much, much more.


June 17, 2009, 6:39 PM #

You're right, but that's not what Scoble was arguing in his post. His claim is that Twitter can "kick the ass" of mainstream news agencies, which is simply not true. It does something different, and I would argue what Twitter does is less valuable. Furthermore, CNN's neglect aside, what was going on in Iran was no secret or something not picked up by every other medium. He's staking the "win" on CNN's Web team incompetence (or perhaps internal politics, if they're the kind of place that thinks cannibalization of the audience occurs at the expense of the TV product).

You're also right that lots of people are morons. :)


June 17, 2009, 11:38 PM #

Interestingly, CNN and other news agencies have made great use of the internet, including social network Twitter, to gather information which has shed considerable light on the situation in Iran. I still maintain the information is just that and must be analyzed, interpreted and verified to the extent possible before it becomes news.

Scoble's arguement is non-sense from both the perspective of considering Twitter news as well as his criticism of CNN which simple did their due diligence before using the information source.

If nothing else, this dialogue reveals the power of the internet to move information around the world and allow people to then react to situations they might otherwise be unaware of or be limited to state controlled information to make a judgment.

I was pleased when the populace used the technology to overcome the effort of the Iranian state to suppress news of what was happening as well as to see a successful effort to relatively peacefully (so far) bring the mullahs to rethink how the election controversy will be handled going forward.

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