Innovative or Irresponsible? CNN News Coverage via Twitter

The events of the last couple of weeks have changed my mind about the role of mainstream media, and to me have uncovered and confirmed some emerging trends in the traditional news scene. Of course a major topic here is the use of Twitter as a news source:

CNN delivers news on a possible Iranian revolution and reconnects with high school friends

Watch John Stewart make merciless fun of CNN’s inept and fumbling Twitter based coverage of the Iran election, but as hilarious (and alarming to some) as this footage is, it is so only if one approaches it with the expectation that CNN act like a traditional source of the news.

Is the emergence of Social Media based news sources gaining legitimacy? Most people have been staying informed and up-to date on the crisis not through mainstream media, but through a collection of internet based sources. It is common knowledge that these unverified reports coming from Iran include a lot of dis-information, false rumors and the like, both from pro-government sources and Mousavi supporters alike.

It is therefore been amazing to see the way in which a self-organizing and self-correcting filtering system has emerged, where the Twitter user community is jointly self-policing and challenging the accuracy and sources of reports. While at any one point in time there could be a lot of disinformation present, a much clearer picture develops when observing the #IranElection news trend over the course of an hour’s time.

Learning to Deal with Dis-Information
In general with internet based news sources, we are learning to “bake in” the expectation that these sources of news may contain mis-information. And this has shifted the important responsibility of sense-making, of finding truth, to us, the viewer. No longer do we get to rely on Edward R. Murrough or Woodward and Bernstein to do this for us, we need to sort out the truth ourselves. Of course there is still a role for investigative reporting done through major networks, but the real-time nature and shrinking time-frame of our news appetite does not even have us waiting until we read it in the morning papers.

Besides, I would also argue that most mainstream media themselves are now aligned with political or corporate points of view (I’m thinking of Fox vs. MSNBC), and that therefore the information we receive through these formerly “trusted” channels is in fact also fundamentally biased. This is why I think last week’s news events in Iran have been enormously important experience for all that consumed news about it. We are learning to no longer rely on traditional news media to write the story for us, all we will see there are biased views to the left and to the right. Instead we are learning a new form of responsible consumption of internet based news.

Is CNN onto something?
I would quote Clay Shirky: “Media is increasingly less a source of information, increasingly more a site of coordination.” Perhaps CNN is getting it right after all, or at least deserves credit for attempting to pioneer a new model of coordinating news information and social media generated content.

What do you think?

Technorati Tags: CNN, Social Media, Twitter, Iran, Election, News, New Media

  • Reflective post.

    Humankind will continue to muddle its way through, as we learn our way into new territories, where the existing maps no longer serve (Hooray!)

    Take a look at http://bit.ly/EUvbx by Julie Posetti: “I’ve been researching the ways in which journalists and traditional media outlets are using Twitter and exploring the ethical dilemmas raised by the clash of the private and the public for journalists in the sphere”.

    We are at the brink – exciting because it means that we no longer have an “authoritative” media – we will need to take greater responsibility in making choices about what serves us or doesn’t.