MSM journalism and Twitter

Moving online has caused Mainstream Media (MSM) quite a few headaches. I explored this a little during my Pubcamp presentation earlier this year.

Unlike many, I believe there is still life in MSM yet – they just have to learn to adapt to the new environment and, staying true to their code of ethics, make the most of new media in a way which better serves the audience.

Too many MSM consider they are making use of new media by simply having an online space. Quality of MSM journalism has taken a nose-dive as the stress of creating content (repurposed or not) on a continuing cycle for the online entities has reduced the time available for researching and fact checking. The seemingly limitless amounts of space online, and the audience demand for updated news combines with the advertisers’ demand for minute-by-minute hit ratios.

Any ethical news organisation would reasonably buckle under that pressure. And many have.

It’s time for MSM to look beyond coming up with new ‘stories that aren’t’ and flimsy angles on old agendas in order to maintain their readership. It’s time to revisit your mission, reconsider who you serve, and then integrate new media to that end.

The whole reader comment thing is really iffy for MSM. I believe in brands. Whether online or in print, MSM is professional and has a branding that reflects their years of commitment. A stamp of professionalism if you like. When you run a slurry of reader comments online under news stories you invite commentary that is neither professional nor reflects your branding. We are seeing stories that are 300 words long but which have 2000 words of reader comments, most of which is simply diatribe – or worse, just plain offensive bigotry.

Who does that serve?

Additionally, you have your reporters running their own blogs which are nothing more than a bit of fluff that nobody, not even your MSM journo’s themselves, take seriously. Honestly, you’re getting it wrong. If it’s not fit to print then why do you believe it’s fit for the web?

No wonder your sales continue to slide.

The Rocky Mountain News (RMN) and a few other organisations are to be congratulated for looking further into new media. The RMN is trying to use Twitter. But so far MSM hasn’t got its head around the possibilities of social networking tools, and it’s falling a bit short.

So if you’re listening, here’s what you need to do.

Train your journalists in social media and focus on the social aspect. Twitter can be used as a broadcast tool, sure, but that’s not its limitation. In fact, why not tell your audience that you’ll be at a certain event, and ask them to get online and use the journalist as their eyes and ears at that event? Yes, Twitter goes two ways!

I can see a really great potential here for MSM to make a mark using social media, and for the professionalism and integrity of journalism to get a real kick back on track. MSM can offer its very wide audience the opportunity to be part of the democratic, authentic, balanced journalism the public seeks. Sure you can use Twitter as an advertisement link to other news stories, but that’s simply advertising. Why not integrate the tool in your reporting and at the same time bond with your audience?

Now that’s something I’d love to see. That’s something that will get people believing in you again.

One comment

  • I think you raise a really good point about Twitter. CNN is doing a pretty good job with it, for example, with Rich Sanchez and Issue #1. Sanchez actually shows their @replies (selectively) and responds, making it clear that it isn’t (just) an advertising gimmick. Twitter has the potential to be an off-site place to elicit reader comments, in a way that will not damage a brand.

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