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Social Media Replacing Journalism?


Data from April 2011 Editor Survey that lists ...

Data from April 2011 Editor Survey that lists Social Media activities (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There is a fantastic post on Media Bistro’s blog, 10,000 WORDS by Meranda Watling.  “Infographic:  How Social Media Wins At Breaking News” speaks volumes of how news consumers get their breaking news and how much that has changed over the last decade.

Watling opens up by asking her readers to try and recall how they learned of the attack on Sept. 11.  She sums up by acknowledging that most people found out through television, contacted their relatives by phone, if possible, and then likely read the newspapers the next day and followed up with a weekly news magazine.  She points out, we didn’t hear of it through social media, like Facebook or Twitter because they weren’t invented at the time.

Watling continues to discuss how major news stories spread through social media, using the killing of Osama Bin Laden and other stories as examples.  Her article discusses the very real change that is taking place in the news industry with respect to the advancement of social media becoming one of the major sources of news for people.

Watling concludes her article with a graphic done by Schools.com, that referenced a Pew Research Center study titled, “What Facebook and Twitter Mean For News.

I don’t think it comes as major surprise to those who already use social networking on regular basis.  The implications however, of social networks becoming a serious player in the news industry is something to consider carefully.  Especially, in an age of citizen journalism, when blogging and other forms of news dissemination is exploding on the frontlines of journalism.

Before you get too excited and think you can now depend on getting all of your information from sites like Facebook and Twitter, note in the graph where it states that 49.1% of people have at some point heard breaking news on social media that turned out to be false.

Ah, the new-age, old problem of citizen journalism.  Verification.  It’s wise to not believe everything you see or hear on these sites, but with a little digging, you can pretty quickly decipher the validity of the breaking news.  Watling touches on the issue of trust and verification of reporting in her blog post, but leaves it for another day.

On the School.com website that displays this graphic, I don’t know that I would go so far as to agree with the notion that social media is replacing journalism.  I don’t think that’s the case.  I do think, the news industry is figuring out how to capitalize on social media sites, and while anyone can become a news producer these days, not everyone follows the guidelines and “rules” of traditional journalism.  So, social media is not quite there yet.  Could it be ten or twenty years from now?  I think that is a very real possibility.

The graphic below is the one produced by Schools.com.
Social Media: The New News Source
Courtesy of: Schools.com

CNN: The All News Network?


The CNN Center in Atlanta.

The CNN Center in Atlanta. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bloomberg Businessweek ran an article last week by Alex Sherman, ” Has CNN‘s All-News Strategy Become Old News?”.  It seems that the folks at CNN feel that there are times when commercials are not appropriate.

In Sherman’s article, Mark Whitaker, the CNN Worldwide Managing Editor, is quoted saying, “Our bread and butter is in-depth coverage of breaking news…We have faith that will help us with the ratings”.

The article goes on to discuss that CNN establishes high ratings when covering breaking news stories that have major national interest, like disasters, plane crashes and of late, the protests associated with the shooting of Trayvon Martin.

According to the article, networks sell roughly 70% of their available advertising space a year in advance and the rest is sold at a higher rate since advertisers know more people tune in when there is breaking news.

Lyle Scwhartz, a managing director for a media buying firm that is part of the largest advertising company in the United States, says that these ads still need to be placed in available time slots and by the time that happens, the breaking news might be over.

The article also adds that there is a problem between tragedy and commercial advertising.  Many airline industries have an agreement that the networks will not air their commercials while covering things like plane crashes.  Other breaking news is also uninterrupted.

Once the breaking news has subsided, according to Sherman, CNN’s ratings drop them back down to third place.

So this article begs the question:   If advertisers buy these time slots at a higher rate because more viewers tune in during breaking news, but the network reduces and in some cases cease all commercial time during this same period, who benefits from this model?

I just don’t see this as being a sustainable business model for CNN.  After a while, the advertisers are going to get pretty fed up with buying more expensive time slots for nothing.  The comments associated with this article and a related article on Media Bistro, for the most part, have been pretty tough on CNN and it’s programming.  Most people are critical of the bias they see on CNN as well as the notion that they are an all news network.

Since CNN is declining in ratings, and constantly lags behind other networks like Fox News Channel, and MSNBC not just in ratings but in advertising revenue as well, I can only guess that continuing this business model will ultimately lead to the end for CNN.    Whitaker having “faith” that this will keep the network afloat seems like a stretch, at best.

As noted in Sherman’s article, there is so much competition out there as far as tuning in to the news, laptops, phones, tablets, other than its booming online website, I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibilities to say that CNN is in the early stages of the death throes of a dying network.

You can read the Media Bistro post on the subject here.

Muto is a Mute Point


There has been a lot of buzz about Joe Muto, the self-named “Fox Mole” that began blogging for the website Gawker.

This was the case in a recent article by Mark Trumbull, a staff writer for The Christian Science Monitor. It’s seems there is almost no one out there in the digital media world (including myself) that can resist discussing Muto.

Through his blogging for Gawker, Muto made some pretty heavy comments about the journalistic ethics of his employer, right down to using the nasty “B” word, bias.

Basically, Muto decided he was fed up with his employer Fox News and decided to start blogging about it. He also posted some video of outtakes that had never aired, and used his daily interactions as a producer to “expose” the bias of FoxNews, and in some instances, specifically their website. 

Trumbull shared in his article what Muto wrote for Gawker, “…The plan was simple: Get hired, keep my head down and my views to myself, work for a few months, build my resume, then eventually hop to a new job that didn’t make me cringe every morning when I looked in the mirror.” 

Trumbull questions whether or not Muto is a whistle-blower, or a “disloyal self-promoter”. 

In truth, I’m not sure why this is news and I don’t think Muto is a whistle-blower, nor a disloyal self-promoter. Okay, maybe the worst self promoter in the history of people looking for their 15 minutes of fame. 

As a news consumer, I’ve concluded that most of the media powerhouses out there like MSNBC, FoxNews, CNN, and the like, all practice what I would say is some form of political bias. I know plenty of people who watch these programs and can figure out that Fox leans to the conservative right and the others, for the most part, lean left and liberal. This is not a surprise. So I’m afraid Muto’s “revelations” about his employer of 8 years is not exactly breaking news. 

This is also why I think, many people are looking to local news, and other sources, like the wide variety of news aggregators on the web, for their information. Why shouldn’t they? 

Despite the ocean of cognitive dissonance viewers find themselves bobbing around in and the myopic view of what the public considers news, this network, as well as all the others will continue to thrive. Largely, because they successfully pass off what is truly opinion, as factual news. They are all guilty of portraying their “talking heads” as if they were anchors delivering hard news they consider important and relevant to the public. 

If you can differentiate between what is news and what is opinion, you will do just fine.  Mind you, there is nothing wrong with having an honest debate and broadcasting opinions as long as the opinions are represented as such.

This blog for example, is simply my interpretation of the news about the news. When I can, I offer up fact based evidence to support my view and when I can’t, well…it’s just my opinion and you can take it or leave it. This opinion should however, never be motivated by my personal political views or other beliefs. It must be an intelligent discussion of the information presented, and that is why I believe at this point in the game, Muto is a mute point. 

His 15 minutes are more like 5, and I look forward to when the news outlets move on to more relevant and newsworthy subjects.