Mainstream and New Media Meet, But at What Cost?

The Virginia Tech killings showed how mainstream and social media, like the social networking site Facebook, are fitting together to cover news that has a broad audience.  It also reveals a major divide between those embracing technology and those who are trying to first understand it better.  We need both.  San Francisco Chronicle writer Joe Garofoli on April 20, 2007 wrote:  “The questions and concerns about the boundaries of openness are being raised not just by traditional media fuddy-duddies but by leaders of new media, those who often praise the virtues of a “democratized” media world in which anyone can publish his own writing, video or photos.” 

There is a lot of learning ahead of us – ethics, potentially dangerous uses – but there’s no need to reinvent the wheel.  Rather, many are building on lessons learned from the printing press, birth of radio, TV, cable, Internet and now the people at-large who are media producers and worldwide distributors news, information and babble.  Garofoli shows the audience for Fox and CNN on Tuesday, April 17:

  • The 1.8 million people who watched Fox on Monday, the day the shooting occurred, represented a 115 percent jump in ratings over Fox’s average for the first part of this year.

  • CNN’s 1.4 million viewers were a ratings jump of 186 percent for that same period. MSNBC.com had 108.8 million page views Tuesday, a record for the site.

Garofoli provides a variety of soundbites that show how different people and professions are looking at this.  Reading some of these (pasted below), I get the sense that many people are not watching primetime TV shows like CSI, Law&Order and other crime-themed programs.  These shows explore many of the ethical and potentially harmful possibilities that come from a society living with more technology-powered capabilities than ever before.  Most of the storylines may seem fear or protectionist-based, but they allow us to explore possibilities. 

  • Jeff Jarvis wrote on his BuzzMachine.com blog, “There is no control point anymore. When anyone and everyone — witnesses, criminals, victims, commentators, officials and journalists — can publish and broadcast as events happen, there is no longer any guarantee that news and society itself can be filtered, packaged, edited, sanitized, polished, secured.”

  • “It is future shock,” said Micah Sifry, executive editor of the Personal Democracy Forum, a
    New York think-tank that explores the intersections of technology and politics. “The technology has developed so fast that the culture hasn’t caught up with all of it. On one hand, you have the advocates, who want NBC to release all of (Cho’s manifesto). On the other, you have people who are saying, ‘Wait a minute.’ This is a very challenging moment. What works best is an open-networked system. It’s the difference between trusting a few people to make decisions for everyone and trusting many people.”

  • “Conflicted is the right word,” said Dave Winer, a pioneering blogger and influential figure in new media. “Yes, I realize that it’s unfortunate right now that this guy gets to control the discussion. We hadn’t foreseen this use of the technology because, as utopians, we tend to look for the good stuff. I liked to think I had a balanced view, and could see where bloggers weren’t doing good, but I hadn’t seriously considered our tools used to further such a bad cause.   

  • “The lesson for this week is that the news is everywhere. The news is on Facebook,” said Jennifer Sizemore, editor in chief of MSNBC.com. Like other news outlets, MSNBC turned to social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook to find students to interview about the Virginia Tech slayings.  “I don’t view them as the competition,” said Sizemore. “I see them as enlarging the conversation.”

  • “In the end, it’s going to get out there,” said Jay Wallace, executive producer for news at Fox News Channel. “Even if every newspaper and cable news channel doesn’t put it out there, somebody will.  In those early hours, it is a feeding frenzy. We know that people are flipping around everywhere for news.” 

People who are keenly interested will flip through TV, Radio and the Internet, where social media sites offer insight into people’s daily lives.  Sometimes people are flipping through all of these at the same time.

We have more people participating than ever, and lots of interesting viewpoints on how we can move ahead in our rapidly changing, technology-driven, new media-filled lives.  PodTech’s Rio Pesino talks with a good collection of mainstream and new media pros in this vidoe mashup where he asks, “What’s missing form local media?”

[podtech content=http://media1.podtech.net/media/2007/04/PID_010985/Podtech_Topix.flv&postURL=http://www.podtech.net/home/corporate/2765/what-is-missing-from-local-news&totalTime=274000&breadcrumb=f068e474-4564-4ff4-ae59-c0328054e5c8]

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