‘The Newsroom’ and ‘Dewey Defeats Truman’ 2.0

It’s been an exciting week in journalism. The same week that Jeff Daniels and Emily Mortimer’s characters on HBO’s The Newsroom decided to change the way news was reported in the show’s premiere episode, the real media became the news after flubbing the coverage of the Supreme Court’s health care ruling. I’m looking at you, CNN and Fox News.

One look at my Twitter feed on June 28 showed that teasing jokes about CNN and Fox may have equaled those about the court ruling most of the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare) constitutional.

Enough has been said about how embarrassing, disappointing and pathetic it is for two (once?)credible news organizations to make such a gaffe – many of those tweets made their way onto Buzzfeed’s “25 Funniest ObamaCare Tweets.” So I won’t add to the CNN/Fox jokes, though I did love this one:

Instead, I’ll just say this: the Twitter age is demanding instant news from these organizations that are, at the same time, failing to balance business and journalism. Journalists are human beings. I’m not trying to justify what happened, but when we as readers value speed over truth and context, there is bound to be human error. That’s what we saw last Thursday. Sadly, it wouldn’t surprise me if these major flubs become even more common. In a competitive industry where speed and accuracy (two values that hardly go hand-in-hand) are key, smaller newsrooms won’t lead to success. Until readers, owners and advertisers realize the importance of a journalist’s work and find a way to balance the need to make money with the need for accurate information, there won’t be any improvement.

Which brings me to The Newsroom – HBO’s newest drama, by The West Wing‘s Aaron Sorkin, challenging the American media and its audience to be better. It seems fitting considering the state of the news industry that Sorkin would write a show about the behind-the-scenes drama at a cable news channel. The Newsroom isn’t perfect or realistic or unbiased, and probably won’t have much of an impact on the media or the electorate, but maybe watching an idealistic take on the journalism industry will, at least, remind us all of the importance of good reporting, and for those of us in the industry, it might remind us why we chose to go down this unpredictable career path. As we move forward in defining the journalism of tomorrow, it can’t hurt to remember the journalism of the past and find a way to be better.


Twitter informs world of bin Laden death

I was 8 days from turning 11 years old when some 3,000 innocent people died on Sept. 11, 2011. Nearly 10 years later on May 1, 2011,  the man responsible for those murders was confirmed death. And how the media has changed in those 10 years.

On the morning of 9/11, I happened to be watching “Where in the world is Carmen San Diego” on TV, after saying goodbye to my grandfather, who was flying back to Peru after a visit. It was during that show that a burning building began to flash on the screen.

We all remember what happened next. The news spread via television, radio, newspapers and possibly the Internet. At the time, I knew nothing about the Internet except for email, and I had no interest in such technology.

When the news broke that bin Laden had died, I was again watching TV. But before ABC News interrupted prime time television, Twitter informed me of the president’s announcement set for 10:30 p.m. EST. CNN, for instance, tweeted:

@cnnbrk: President Barack #Obama is expected to make a statement tentatively at 10:30 p.m. Subject unknown http://t.co/cwM4nUp.

Within minutes, rumors were flying. Twitter exploded. I had over 25 Twitter text notification within 5 minutes. A friend working for the BBC in London was on a night shift and speculated along with me as to what the president was going to say. By 10:45 p.m. EST, the secret was out on Twitter. It took a few more minutes to hit TV.

Approximately 45 minutes before President Obama made the official announcement, the world new that Osama bin Laden was dead.

Social networking has really changed the way breaking news is covered. It even gave one man the medium to report on the Abbottabad raidwithout knowing it would make international news. The Internet has, without a doubt, mixed things up.