The Mumbai Terrorist event has clearly shown us that we have moved to a culture of immediate news consumption. We thought we were there with CNN, but Twitter and other tools have shown that the immediacy was no longer in the viewing – it’s now in the data collection.
All major news services were monitoring Twitter during Mumbai. They were taking advantage of a new information source, just like the rest of us. Some of this worked well, some did not.
And now we have the retrospective. How did that work?
Steve Herrmann at the BBC has a post discussing the soul-searching The BBC is now doing after Mumbai.
Immediacy Has a Price
The software development adage:
“You can have your software fast, good, or cheap – pick two.”
fits well here. Replace “software” with “news” and we’re rolling. (at least for the moment). For years we’ve have good and cheap. Face it, we’ve always received our news for pennies since the advent of the printing press.
Immediacy has a price – and it isn’t the “cheap” option. We have fast and cheap now.
With Mumbai we have an excellent example of a dispersed, confused, stressful situation. People of good faith were tweeting and re-tweeting objects of news based on their faith in the network. Most of this information was good, some of it was garbage.
People were looking for answers. Sensational garbage can easily rise to the top because it’s often confirming our worst fears or bolstering our deepest hopes.
Acquisition Isn’t the Only Transaction Cost
News as a product runs on information. It is true that immediate communication gives news organizations faster and cheaper information. However, while the cost of acquisition is certainly a major component to news – verification is the other.
Reputation engines may well serve the verification need in the future. A source can be deemed “credible” based on their reputation scores. But this certainly isn’t infallible.
If I have a very high score and am walking down a street in Phuket and suddenly a huge crowd runs down the street screaming “Tsunami!” I’m going to run and likely tweet “I am in Phuket and running from a Tsunami!”
My source was a crowd of people with no discernable credibility rating other than their panic.
In an uncertain time, you get uncertain information.
BBC is Introspective
The BBC is doing well to both be introspective after Mumbai and to be relatively transparent in doing so.
Is it confusing to have reports from our own correspondents, along with official statements, pictures, video, accounts from other media, bloggers, emails and Twitter, all together on the same page? It's true that normally we separate them out - news stories in one place, correspondents' reports in another, Have Your Say comments and links to blogs somewhere else.
But on a major unfolding story there is a case also for simply monitoring, selecting and passing on the information we are getting as quickly as we can, on the basis that many people will want to know what we know and what we are still finding out, as soon as we can tell them.
Steve is acknowledging the transition of the mainstream media from a news source to a news aggregator and analyzer. Some of the news comes from their highly trusted generators (reporters and informants), but others is now going to come from bloggers and tweeters and the like. It would be self-defeating not to include these new sources.
We must also note that this is both new and frightening to an organization like the BBC. They must simultaneously understand how to present this information effectively and deal with the major impact this has on their corporate culture.
This is not SOP.
BBC is Outward Looking
I’d also like to give quick props to Steve Herrmann and the BBC for having many links in his post that are pointed outside the BBC domain. One of my news site pet peeves is that they have ample inward pointing links.
This small fact lets me know that Mumbai’s lessons for global reporting will have an impact.
((Cross posted from the Touchbase Blog))