Shaken up over the speed of bad information

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When the Great East Coast Quake of 2011 nudged the office building here (in MA), I made a quick call to building management to see if it was their doing.  When they denied responsibility, I checked three online news sites and fully expected an explanation.  I was surprised and even a little annoyed to still be in the dark less than 2 minutes after the quake.

Fear not.  Within another 10 minutes, all the news sites had it: I knew where, when, I could see how far the experience ran around my social media circle.  A client even noted that the earthquake gained its own twitter account (@DCEarthquake) by 2:30 pm.

Where does this leave us?  We already have difficulty with a 24 hour news cycle that elongates and extrapolates hard facts until they’re barely recognizable.  Now we have a nearly instantaneous reaction time – a need to get information as events unfold.

This is fine for live broadcasting or tweeting planned events, but when it comes to hard news…I fear we’ve been down this road before.   Raise your hand if you remember the early call of the Presidential election in 2000.  That was a seminal moment for news networks, as they acknowledged that the race to get the news out became more important than getting it right.

We’ve just reached a stage at which social media has become an entrenched part of media overall.  It is not its own practice, or its own medium, or its own industry – it is part of the media overall.  Journalists use it.  Networks use it.  Consumers use it.  Cats, apparently, use it.  At the intersection of all these users is a chaotic ball of yarn (for lack of a better metaphor), and we were just getting to a place where we could identify which threads  are trustworthy and which are entanglements.

Alas and alack, we are back at the beginning.  Now that social media is an accepted flow of information, the emphasis is on speed and wit – both outstanding qualities, but not the cornerstones of journalism.  As we gear up for another election season, I’ll stay wary of the quick feed and keep hope alive for long form knowledge.

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2 Responses to “Shaken up over the speed of bad information”

  1. Brian Keaney Says:

    …and inside of an hour people were blogging about the quake.

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