Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Rumour as news

"Christchurch struck by another major quake, worse than last September's."

That was the news that somehow osmosed into the office yesterday afternoon. The usual New Zealand news sites, unaccustomed as they are to being viewed by more than three people at once, promptly vanished from the web. The Herald, TVNZ, Stuff were all unavailable.

So where to find out what was going on? Experimentally, I tried Twitter.

Now, there are those e-vangelists who claim that Twitter is the only news source you need nowadays. You get breaking news from people on the spot, far faster than conventional media can deliver it. And, of course, unfiltered by editorial policy or bias.

And this is true, kinda. On the other hand, the news is filtered by the fact that it's being written by twits. But now let's see how it covers this breaking news story...

Well, first observation is that it doesn't merit inclusion among 'Trending Topics', being squeezed out by news of greater moment, such as "Libia" and "rafa araneda" (the Chilean TV presenter, of course). If I were relying on Twitter to tell me what's new in the world, I'd have missed this story entirely. Granted, one of these is, objectively, a bigger story - but surely Christchurch should outrank "BIEBER ALERT"?

Hard information from Christchurch? Almost none. What I'm seeing is the accounts of people all over the world who are watching their TVs. New media feeding off old. There are some excellent pictures (I think this one deserves some kind of award, but Lord alone knows who took it or who first posted it online), but if I were watching TV I'd have seen a lot more, a lot quicker.

Decisive victory to old media.


Steven Marty Grant said...

I was going to tweet this but you don't have a Twitter link (smiley face)

Eric Lester said...

1. Full disclosure of my ignorance: I couldn't remember where you live in NZ so I was relieved to find that you don't live near enough to CC to know what's going on there.

2. Your observations about Twitter are not wrong, but I do find it a useful news tool. I follow many feeds from traditional sources (TV stations, broadcast networks, newspapers, blogs, magazines), which lead me to a variety of stories. I find this similar to the experience of leafing through a newspaper and getting an unfiltered look at the news in general, then looking more closely at the items that interest me. Twitter as an exclusive source of information is disappointing; as a collection of headlines and comments that guide me to read further, it's extremely useful.

vet said...

SMG, I appreciate your restraint.

Eric - hmm, maybe. I don't see it at the moment, though. Unless maybe you've got that Firefox plugin that eliminates every mention of from the web?