In the last few days there have been two huge international story lines – The Royal Wedding and the death of Osama bin Laden. The way we, the general public, accessed news about these events and processed them indicative of where we are headed with news. While television and social media were heavily involved in covering both these events, the way each of them was prioritized varied quite dramatically.
With the wedding of Will and Kate, people watched a lot of television coverage. Every major news channel and then some covered the wedding end to end! There have been endless reruns of when they met, how the relationship proceeded, and how it all culminated in this “fairy tale wedding.” (Surprising, how every commentator felt that it was a cliché worth repeating!)
Then came the news of Bin Laden’s death. Television was trumped by social media. Most people got the news via their electronic devices and then turned on the news to look for more details. The fact that it was past 11:00 pm in the East Coast when the news spread, and yet people gathered together at Ground Zero, Times Square and outside the White House was, in part, an indication of the personal dissemination of the information.
The two stories are perfect examples of which medium works best for each kind of news. The 24-hour news cycle and the urgency to find breaking news has driven programs choices and coverage in some television channels. These two stories suggest that it is time for television to redefine the way it approaches news – the breaking news can be left to social media and television can take on the role of assessing, analyzing and evaluating. The onus on television news programs is even higher now to provide quality information. Somebody else is doing the rushing – so you can do the well-researched news programs.
This post is prompted partly by some cringe-inducing moments these past few months. I don’t want to name names and I am not talking about differences in political ideology. But it will be great to have more TV journalists who ask incisive questions and offer substantive analysis – it is embarrassing to see ill-informed anchors asking mundane questions during shuttle launches and political uprisings. Social media is taking away every excuse for hiring anchors/journalists merely for their fast-talking abilities!