Should we expect “twitter-speed” from mainstream media?

February 16, 2009

This is the intriguing question of this post from Bill Salvin of Signal Bridge Communications. It is clear that the twitterers are shocked that it takes as long as 2 hours for the likes of CNN to get the story like the Continental crash on the air. But as Salvin points out, they need to be concerned about accuracy and that means they have to do a little more than just blast out there what the latest tweet is.

Yet, there are some nagging questions in my mind about this. It has become clear to me that speed has become more important than accuracy for most mainstream media–the 2000 elections still come to mind. And as the speed of information distribution through social media heats up, this need for speed is even more critical. As I have stated in numerous presentations the past few years, the competition within media is intense and the competition is based primarily on immediacy. Accuracy, balance, comprehensiveness, depth, context–all these are important and of varying importance depending on the outlet, but in this hyperspeed information world, you lose if you are not fast enough. That’s why I kind of doubt that the point about accuracy will continue to hold up. CNN needs to be concerned about that 2 hour delay because the audience they crave–those twitterers (hey better than saying twits) simply cannot and will not understand that bit about waiting to make sure the facts are right.

It’s one of the reasons why CNN like all other MSM have resorted to i-reporter or some other form of instant citizen journalism to support their traditional coverage. It is fast, it accommodates the mass of those involved in sharing instant information, and it also it seems somewhat absolves them of the heavy responsibility of accuracy and objectivity. Note the debacle of an i-reporter on CNN falsely reporting Steve Job’s death with the resulting short term stock crash. I don’t recall seeing any apologies from CNN on this false report. These incidences it seem to me don’t result in a call for more accuracy as much as they continue to press even more demands for speed.

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