Reporting From The Corner Bar
I was in a bar talking with my friend to plan his wedding for tomorrow. While we were discussing music cues, I got a tiny buzz in my pocket. It was from a news app notifying me of the early reports about Paris. Within a half hour the bar had switched off the sports shows and soccer games and turned on CNN.
CNN hadn't even gotten someone on the ground. They were in wild speculation mode. Showing a loop of some footage from Reuters, and repeating the same reports every few minutes. They were fielding Skype calls and showing Vine videos. I was struck by how social media has transformed the way media is collected for the news. What it hasn't changed is the way that the media itself reports.
Cable news was the last real revolution. Blogging only changed the way that opinion was distributed. Hard live news is still in the mode of cable news. Live events are followed around the clock with experts from every corner called in to give their opinions.
I don't know if social media can do anything but feed this machine. Getting a larger range of footage and witnesses allows them to pad out the normal format, but it only servers to reinforce this model of news. Information, speculation, repeat.
Every event has to be treated this way. The tragedy in Paris plays out the same way that 9-11 did. It plays out the same way that the Malaysian plane did. The way school shootings and civil unrest did. Every tragedy another breakaway from normal programming with a crawl of information at the bottom. No context, little information.
Whether it's CNN, MSNBC, or Fox, the playbook is the same. The speculation comes in different flavors, and the audience's views are different. In a way, this raw exploitation is far more honest than the people who will come next to wrap themselves in this tragedy.