My wife normally scolds me for being a news bulletin hopper. She contends that once you’ve gone through one bulletin it’s as good as having been through all of them. Well looking at it she is right and frankly I have nothing to my defense. News bulletins have become like those tiny MacDonalds’ burgers, lean; dry and lacking in taste.
I am hooked on news bulletins. I channel hop just to catch bulletins on various channels and still am not satisfied. Recently I have developed a penchant for news over the social media platforms where I follow various media houses and publications with a view of catching the ‘breaking news’ story. Online; blogs; tweets and live tweets, I consume all of them. Due to me and my ilk’s constant urge for news, media houses have found themselves under enormous pressure to produce content. Newspapers no longer wait for the print version to ‘break’. Radio stations finally have the guts to disrupt programmes just to deliver breaking news stories. All of this has led to what I termed ‘speed journalism’, but, how different are the news in these platforms and how reliable are they?
Just few days ago I had the pleasure of following the ANC Policy Conference via ‘live tweet’ when various journalists were tweeting updates on the conference. This gave me real time news from the event and also the satisfied the ‘breaking news’ craving I have always had. With live tweets I have always felt as if I am part of the event, I can even reply to the tweep and ask questions that s/he can answer after having sourced a response for me. News has never been convenient, fresh and spontaneous. Talk about speed journalism at its best.
The question of how reliable and impartial are speed journalism news reports was brought to the fore when Clayson Monyela took on City Press Journalist, Carien du Plessis who was ‘live tweeting’ on the report back from one of the commissions of the Policy Conference. The latter was accused of ‘misrepresenting facts’. As it turns out the press conference was also covered by a local 24 news channel, e-News and Monyela happened to be watching.
In my line of work I have the pleasure of interacting with the news scribes and that comes with the unfortunate eye straining task of interacting with coverage clips. The similarity between the clips and the message you sent out at times is quite unbelievable. The fact that in this day and age a story does not have to ‘wait to go to print’ as social media platforms are forever available has pushed journalist to churn out stories rapidly. This however has also led to journos just rehashing the story as presented by the press release without writing their story.
Then there are the television and radio broadcasters as well who do not want to be outdone. They will try and cram all the bits covered on social media throughout the day into a 30 minute evening bulletin in that when watching you feel like your television set needs a dose of ritalin to help slow things down a bit. No wonder the leader of the official opposition missed a newsclip on T.V. recently and went on to criticize the public broadcaster for not covering the incident.
Bloggers have also played a part in the emergence of this ‘speed journalism’ trend. Bloggers have their reputation to depend on and many a times this is brought about by relevance and frequency of content. This also helps the blogger to build up a brand and ultimately make some money as a spin off. However trying to be relevant and having frequent up to date content has its shortcomings. Some bloggers eventually end up peddling unverified stories in the name of chasing readership figures for their blogs. As a communications specialist I have had to deal with a flood of negative queries and comments as a result of a blogger who just went on to do a write a piece which was a complete opposite of what we were communicating. This happened because the blogger was trying to build and maintain a reputation of ‘breaking news’.
So is ‘speed journalism’ lowering the standard of news? Well, I don’t know. What I know is that I want news and I also want the story behind the story and I want it fresh and fast. I certainly will not choke trying to force down a dry piece of content when there is an option of channel hoping searching for something better. Give me some news I say, be it in blogs; tweets; online but don’t just churn out volumes for the sake of it, make it factual please.