Sunday, January 9, 2011

Social media as a news pointer -- but that's about it

A couple of news stories this weekend -- one trivial, one tragic -- helped to highlight for me the connection and interrelation of social and legacy media.

Starting with the trivial,* I didn't watch the Saints-Seahawks playoff game Saturday for a variety of reasons, the main one being that my daughter had a friend over and they were watching the TV. I wasn't all that interested in the game so I was happy to let them use it.

But in the early evening as the game was wrapping up I was online, and saw some Twitter chatter that seemed to indicate an upset was in the making and that ex-Bill Marshawn Lynch had a role in that via a long TD run. My daughter was no longer watching the TV, so I turned it on in time to watch the last few minutes of the game, confirming that indeed an upset was happening.

Twitter gave me a sense of things regarding the game, and if I worked hard enough I could have found a live blog about the game, or a hashtag with a more complete set of tweets where I could have found the score and other details lacking in the first few items I read. It was a whole lot easier and faster to turn to legacy media -- the NBC broadcast -- for the definitive story.

With regards to the tragic, I'm of course talking about the shooting of Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and several other people in Arizona. From Twitter and Facebook postings early this morning, I got a sense that something had happened involving the shooting of a political person in Arizona, and that she wasn't the only one shot because others (notably a 9-year-old girl) were killed. But again the picture was hazy. As a sort-of experiment (with this blog post in mind) I deliberately avoided jumping right to a news site and spent a few minutes trying to determine how complete a picture social media would give me. In short, not very complete.

So after a few minutes I linked to the NYT where of course I got a fairly quick and complete summary of the five W's and much more. Before I went there I also had followed a link from one tweet to a Keith Olbermann commentary that had some of the background mixed in with Olbermann's very pointed editorial about language and imagery of violence in political discourse.

There's no arguing that social media add richness, context and recommended referrals that enhance news presentations. A friend in Tucson posted photos from a memorial gathering for the dead bystanders in the Giffords shooting to Facebook, adding a layer of coverage the New York Times wouldn't have. I doubt I would have found the Olbermann piece without the Twitter referral, and with regard to the other news event mentioned here a Facebook link also led me to a video of Lynch's run.

But while recognizing that referral/curation value, I still I think some people go too far in dismissing the value of the legacy media in the emerging world of news. Lots of conversations in social media (on Twitter, especially) seem to regard legacy news operations in the news ecosystem with outright disdain. "Well, yeah, newspapers ... *big sigh* + *eye-roll*..."

In my view, legacy news still has a crucial place in the emerging news ecosystem, and online news sites associated with legacy media (NYT, MSNBC) were my main sources on the Giffords story. But as the legacy economic model becomes ever more tenuous it's hard to fathom what the news world will look like if/when most of them disappear.

*OK, if you are a Saints or Seahawks fan this isn't game wasn't trivial, and I probably wouldn't have used the adjective if the Bills were involved. It's used mostly as a comparative term to the other example in this post.

No comments: