Social Media Is Not The Savior

By | February 14, 2012
This is kind of a follow up to the post I put up Sunday about how badly radio handled the death of Whitney Houston.  Since then, there’s been a lot of chatter among those who regularly drink the Social Media Kool-Aid that Social Media actually broke the story of Whitney Houston’s death and therefore it is more important than “real news”.

I occasionally drink the Social Media Kool-Aid, although I prefer Monster Energy Drink (no compensation for that mention) but I TOTALLY disagree with that assessment, especially because some people have been looking at the timeline of the alleged first tweet and finding faults in it.  Now the very bright Jason Falls, who runs a “must read” site called Social Media Explorer, has some thoughts on this whole situation in his newsletter, which I get nothing to highly endorse but still suggest you sign up for it if you have any interest in social media and want to learn from a really smart guy.

That's Me!The world of social media patted itself on the back again this weekend, claiming it broke the news of Whitney Houston’s death. A Twitter user named Big Chorizo ( @chilemasgrande) who had 14 followers at the time, tweeted his “sources” said the pop diva was found dead in a Beverly Hills hotel. This was sent at 7:30 p.m. ET on Feb. 11. The Associated Press was the first media outlet to report the death, citing publicist Kristen Foster with the confirmation, some 27 minutes later.

Here’s the problem with the social media zealots getting all worked up over how the media landscape has changed, journalism is dead and social media is the new, democratized stream of information: No one in their right mind would trust Big Chorizo for such information. The AP, however, is a reliable source. There was no news broken until the story was vetted and verified. Twitter didn’t scoop the media. Twitter shot first and hoped it hit something. Even a blind soldier gets lucky once and a while.
Remember the early December hoax that Jon Bon Jovi died? Twitter and Facebook got all worked up, ready to claim another media victory. When the alive and well singer posted a dated photo of himself on Facebook, the death-to-media hipsters sulked away and awaited another victory dance.
We can agree that social media has plugged more people into the here-and-now world of news and information and that the media landscape has changed. But our society, U.S. or otherwise, will never trust random users over trusted resources. That, my friends, is why journalism is not dead, nor dying. Until those we trust report the news, it’s just a rumor. Even on Twitter. 

I appreciate all the comments on the post below, and am glad it started a discussion.  But I have to dismiss all the claims that social media was single-handedly responsible for breaking the Whitney Houston story.  The media mix now is different than when Elvis died (also in the bathroom) or even when Michael Jackson died.  And it will change every day.

My hope is that “traditional media” like radio will wake up and not let itself be left in dust of “new media“.  Don’t give up, don’t concede stories to social media, CNN, and TMZ.  Every medium should do what it does best and learn how to do it even better in this new media world we live in.  I believe the term that applies here is “Innovate Or Die“.

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