Monday, January 7, 2013

the pros and cons of instant news

I have been musing today about the pros and cons of today’s “instant” news cycle. When news can travel as fast as a tweet, often little attention is paid to accuracy in the effort to beat other news outlets to the scoop. But reporters are not just parrots; they do research, take measurements, talk to sources and generally provide the most accurate understanding they can for their readers. This takes time, and it is the difference between journalists and eyewitness tweeters, reposters, and outlets just looking for whatever content they can find to fill space, regardless of veracity. It puts tremendous pressure on news sites to get that job done as quickly as possible, or to post what they have immediately and follow-up with the larger story later one. I personally heard so many conflicting versions of what happened in Sandy Hook Elementary that I turned the news off until the following day.

I found Twitter invaluable during Superstorm Sandy when all I had was my cell phone for news and updates, but have also seen rumor and innuendo passed on as fact in a flash due to less than scrupulous vetting. This story “Going Viral For Something You Didn't Do is a prime example. Just as we are all warned not to post private information since ‘it lives forever online,’ google will forever be associating Forbes blogger Andy Ellwood with the drunken passenger on a flight Andy wasn’t even on.

What’s occurrring is a mashup of the game of telephone and a feeding frenzy, with some truly awful, if unintended, consequences. Sometimes I think there should be a time delay on what we post/tweet; fifteen minutes in which we can cancel or edit our input before it goes out to the world. There are too many itchy texting fingers out there. So please the next time you are compelled to use your digits to holler, make sure you engage your brain and pause to think about it first.

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