Thoughtful Thursday: Breaking news, accuracy and the culture of immediate information

Why do legacy media like news organizations not accept that news is shared as it happens now? @dmscott asks this question in his book “Real-Time Marketing and PR.” And we’re hosting job candidates here this week and next for a new position in media analytics and one of them mentioned the same thing.

It’s a question of professional ethics on the news side. Here at Elon, we’ve been working on some studies of how journalists and social media interact. One interesting finding was that readers want journalists as curators, but also want to feel like they understand more about the reporting process itself. A photo of the site of an interview or a Facebook status that tells what was going on at a site helps the readers feel like they can judge the quality of the news better because they feel like they have more context. So there’s that.

But is the media’s slowness to update stories as fast as the Twitterverse a love for old news models, or something else? I think it comes down to the difference between a journalist and a blogger, Tweeter, re-mixer, masher, etc. When we train journalists, an essential part of their training is professional ethics. You may doubt this seeing journalism in practice, but seriously, we emphasize it. A lot. And part of professional ethics is not sharing misinformation. As journalists, our credibility is only as good as the quality of our information. When something wrong can get quickly and irrevocably magnified through sharing, it’s essential to get it as right as possible, as often as possible. My current research is looking at the relationship of geographic proximity and accuracy in news that breaks on social media.

A substantial portion of Meerman’s book focuses on working with journalists and feeding them information at opportune times, and this is good advice that PR professionals should listen to. In part, it’s good, because the legacy media attachment carries a lot of weight with readers and in search rankings. To continue to carry that weight, news still needs to care about getting it right, not just first.

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