Todays bombings in Boston have shown a growing trend in news reporting in the past five years. Previously large news corporations would need a reporter on the ground, talking to witnesses face to face, or perhaps over the phone to lend credibility to their news and make themselves the “must watch” or “must read” news outlet. This could involve helicopters and satellite link-ups and dozens of people all working together to report the news as quickly as possible and getting the best footage in order to draw the biggest audience. The bigger the audience, the more advertisers would pay, the better their bottom line. At least that WAS the model.
Much of this still happens however in the past five years social media has taken off and portable cameras and video recording devices (smartphones) have become ubiquitous amongst the general populace. Scarcely does an event occur where someone is not recording it because their friends or family are involved. Add to that the ability to share these photos, videos, messages and tweets on the internet quickly, plus the ability for anyone, anywhere in the world to search for those messages quickly and you have millions of reporters all over the world at the source of the news at the exact moment when it breaks. No sending a reporter, a chopper or setting up a satellite link needed any more. Joe Armchair can sit back in a shack in middle of nowhere (provided he has a good internet connection) and can link to or republish (with or without attribution) with very little effort, a web page with all of that information from a crisis in one place. Many people are drawn to the speed the news aggregators put news together and some leave old media behind.
That’s great but the underlying issue is credibility. News organisations have an aura of credibility (yes, many still do) when it comes to mainstream reporting. Journalistic principles and editorial ensure there are some checks and balances as news is reported. In some cases there is a long history of good reporting in that organisation that reinforces that perception. Perception is crucial.
Bloggers aren’t journalists. Reporting for a tech blog doesn’t make you a journalist. A journalist has studied journalism and reports on it as part of their life and job. Bloggers sometimes report on things, usually with large doses of opinion thrown in, this does not make them journalists either. Each has its place and that’s fine. Another hit to credibility: the bloggers are seldom (if ever) physically on the ground when the news breaks. That would require flying, driving or walking, rather than just searching the internet and reposting content to a web page from an armchair.
The speed of blogging may seem hard to beat but it’s not all over for the big news outlets. They are catching up as they learn to scour the internet (as aggregators do) for up to the moment news but they are still slower than blogs/aggregator websites. So the sequence of events seems to be: read the blogs first, then wait until the “real” reporting from news corporations comes in shortly thereafter. Provided big news outlets can stay afloat financially they will continue to close the gap and I hope they do. If bloggers and aggregators have pushed big news outlets along to be quicker at reporting news then that’s great, so long as they don’t break in the process.
It’s easy for people to become opinionated bloggers that aggregate content without analysis or relevance and sit back claiming they are journalists by doing so. News; Real News, doesn’t just need to be timely but needs to be credible and that credibility is something that bloggers simply can not earn by aggregating other peoples tweets.