I don’t actually read the Huffington Post all too often. Usually, I follow it and other reporting agencies like it through social network streams like Facebook or Twitter. If you know me already, you know I have issues the use of the term social there, but it’s time we paid it some due attention. Social streams let us know what our friends want to share (and converse with us…yes Naaman, I still say social media is about conversation). Additionally, we can also follow trusted sources, celebrities, or agencies we want specific news from. I personally enjoy this filtration, which accounts for probably 40% of my news consumption; the rest comes from TV and general news (paper or web) reading/viewing. TV and videos themselves are highly social activities—weather we watch them together or just ask our friends if they saw it later. This is what lead me to create Zync for Yahoo! Messenger and what leads others to create similar technologies.
This weekend, CNET Senior Editor Natali Del Conte, who I follow on Twitter, posted a link to the following “fair/unfair” story about broadcast news from the Huffington Post. This caught my attention, so I followed the link to the article.
The article starts in a rather pointed tone:
American television news is returning to its roots as an information wasteland. Pretty faces with largely empty heads read teleprompters and mug for the camera. A dollop of information surrounded by a thick sugar coating of Kewpie doll. The major difference between the evening news and Jeopardy is that Alex Trebek is probably better informed.
Which leads one to think this is an op-ed…remember when those were on the last page of the paper? I’ll let this point slide for now. The author continues:
Television is still the dominant source of news for most Americans.
Immediately you can tell the author (Brian Ross) is upset. From some recent studies he points out, half of us get our news from the TV first. If we find something of interest, 29% of us will hit the Internet to learn more. But actually, 48% of us will watch more TV for followup reports. My guess is if you want to follow up a month later, you’d likely hit the web. In the chance you want late-breaking news online, you’ll hit Yahoo! News way before you check the HuffPo.
All this reads well and fine to some extent, but actually, he is upset that many great reporters cannot survive on TV. At the same time he’s cites TV News as a degrading trend of pandering to the ignorant TV audience “rather than trying to lure back the hard-core news junkies”. There’s an interesting slight of hand in this argument (I think, more formally, cum hoc ergo propter hoc).
He describes TV news agencies as “in a live feed where news is breaking, they buck-and-wing while research staffs scramble to Google up information to make them look a little less piteous….as Jon Stewart so aptly point out in his recent rip of CNN, that they don’t even bother doing any fact-checking”
Which he then illustrates using a Daily Show clip. Yes, a Daily Show clip. In his rather long argument about print (or web rather) being collected, thought-out, and real, he embeds an 11 minute and 33 second video from a comedy TV program to support his argument. Way to go. I’ll let you read the whole rant which is worth the look. It seems his account just falls apart despite a nice collection of sources (Natali’s point is correct, it is a mash of the fair and the unfair…I’ll just point out that the threads are orthogonal at best).
This article did lead me to think about is TV and its social nature. I wonder of the half of us who watch it for news…why? do we actually want fodder for hard-core news junkies? or do we want the mix and balance we get? more so, are we watching this news with other people? do we ask our friends “did you hear what happened in Gaza?” as equally as “did you see Bon Jovi on the Today show?” The Internet or even print won’t magically become a primary source without a real social presence (and I don’t mean add a ‘tweet this’ button to your article either). But maybe there is a more effective way for the HuffPo to increase that 29% followup if only there was a socially viable method.