The problem with too many media outlets

Nowadays, everyone can be a media outlet. Traditional media (newspaper and TV), new media (whatever the hell you consider it, including bloggers), even down to anyone with a twitter account or random blog. Obviously information is power – and having a lot of information on something can usually be a good thing. That is, until you have ‘to many cooks in the kitchen’, and leave everyone having to dig through all the noise to find something meaningful. And those who ‘break’ the story get the fame, until the next story comes along, and then no one cares.

I’ve been trying to write this blog post a few times, with possible titles as ‘Social Media Freakout’ or ‘Hyperlocal Hyperactivity’ (and I may use them in the future). But some events today led to a perfect post, that almost writes itself. Case in point, the ‘OMG UKROPS IS GOING TO BE SOLD!!!!!!’ flurry of tweets today. First of all – this rumor is nothing new. This rumor has been flying around for a very long time now. And heck, I even had my own say in it recently (before all of today’s events broke out). I’m not saying its not true – im just saying some need to stop contributing to the noise!

For those that don’t know, there’s two things that happened today. First an entry is posted on Food World that Ukrops has been out looking for buyers. Then there happens to be a forum post yesterday mentioning that there have been 29 liquor licensees applied for at ABC. While I understand the Food World article (I used to read it at slow times when I worked there), how can anyone trust a random forum post? There are even emails flying around (my wife got one) that even mention the sale value ($850 million).

Over these two events is then the hype machine that surrounds it all. To the point that RVANews leads an article mentioning the sale. Then you have the hype machine that is twitter cast its wrath all over the information. Local news affiliates (both NBC and CBS, as well the RTD) make mention of it, but at least dont contribute much to the hype. All this is good – twitter is almost like todays ‘small talk’, just only much more public, visible, and online. But with all this noise – you really have so much ‘he said/she said’ arguments, all targeting back to two random posts on the internet (and yes kids, not everything you read online is true). Twitter has got to be the fastest way ever in ¬†humanity to spread ‘misinformation’ (misinformation in quotes, because no one knows for sure whats true, whats not. Somethings going on – just not many know what yet).

It’s hard to say in words how I feel about all this. I am complaining, but not really. I want my news as fast as everyone. But I am finding it increasingly difficult to filter all the noise. To the point that I would rather jump back a few years, and have more ‘solid’ news than fast news.

Sometimes this can be a good thing. A great example would be the plane crash in the Hudson. That was mentioned on twitter first, then brought to mainstream media. And all in all – handled in a very good way.

But let’s also look at the recent Michael Jackson tragedy. For hours the only trending topics on Twitter dealt with him. But you had people all over the world just plain out making stuff up! This got to the point where CNN (where we happened to be watching coverage) was jumping back and forth about what was going on. Obviously VERY few people in the world at that time knew what was going on – but social media freaked out the big guys enough to change their decisions based on whatever was more ‘hip’ at the time. And this all leads down into a downward spiral.

I wish I had recorded an AWESOME interview on CNN the next day. I don’t even remember the guys name – but he talked specifically on this topic. With all this going on – its hard for ‘true’ media outlets to also filter the noise, and therefore actually slowing the news down! Yes everyone may know something is going on – they may not know the truth.

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4 thoughts on “The problem with too many media outlets

  1. I think it’s interesting, though, that CNN refused to even mention that various non-traditional news outlets such as twitter and the smutty TMZ were reporting that Michael Jackson had died. Sure, it was unconfirmed at the moment, but in this case the interwebs was right.

    I think traditional media needs to look at breaking news differently. Sure, confirming a story is the most important thing for the integrity of your news, but I think you should at least mention that unconfirmed reports are swirling around the internet and “we’re working hard to confirm this blah blah blah.”.

    In the case of Ukrop’s / Harris Teeter – the local outlets needs to address the rumors that have taken over the RVA twitter topics and say what they DO know for sure and how they’re LOOKING INTO the rumors about a possible sale. You can’t pretend the public will be none the wiser if you don’t report it. As long as you report what IS confirmed and at least address what isn’t, readers/viewers will hold you in the same esteem as a social news site – and, at least for now, social news is the way an ever-growing population want their news delivered.

    Good post.

  2. Well, in the case of the MJ story, there was only a 50/50 chance, and the internet was just right. But you bring up a good point – why couldn’t they obviously say ‘hey, we are hearing from all these sources this is happening, but we can not confirm this yet’. I also would love a news outlet that says ‘hey guys guess what, the rumors aren’t true, and we will tell you why…’. Its a simple and quick story for each of them, and helps everyone really.

    Also, what if we just had the ‘talking majority’. Not that the internet wins, but what if there was a way to watch which way it was leaning? Sure those could stilly by skewed by the non-truth, but at least gives you a quick way to see ‘whats up’ than filter out all the noise.

  3. First off – Jon I know how much you love this term – your post seemed like that of a social media expert.

    All kidding aside both your ideas are interesting in the comments section are interesting. Without a doubt news organizations are constantly juggling the credibility of sources with the speed of the 24 hour new cycle. Allow me to play devil’s advocate. A common arguement to both your ideas (that of discussing rumor or unconfirmed ideas) is that with traditional media you have the rules of two sources before reporting on a story. As Jon mentioned, juggling more noise with the true noise.

    I have to admit I find it wierd that a brand (twitter) has become a co-source with breaking news. Whenever someone breaks news over twitter (recently the Steve Nash signing) the source (Steve Nash) and medium (twitter) are both mentioned. It shows that traditional media hasn’t fully grasped twitter. In the past you never heard people say, “This story was broken via email, phone call, etc”.

  4. Did it really sound like that of an SME? I didn’t mean for it to be – i think (at least in my head) that I was trying to portray something different. I think what I am worried about is the media (which could be considered the ‘truth’ in the news) is more worried about their rankings or ‘being the first’ than the actual credibility or knowledge of their story.

    I really agree with you, that something ‘else’ is breaking news. While yes, its almost a ‘pulse of humanity’ if you will – its still controlled and owned by one company. In your example, the only reason I think that Twitter is mentioned is almost for ratings, if you will. Twitters the hot topic, so if a traditional news source can say something came from twitter – they will…even if its not ‘real news’. Those buzzwords will get more viewers, which will get more advertising dollars.

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