This week's media news centers on Thursday's Fort Hood shooting
, which took the lives of 12 soldiers and one civilian. On a less weighty level, it also gave us a lot of fodder to discuss the relationship of the growing Twitter-driven social media ecosystem to breaking, horrific news stories. (Explanation of what the weekly review's all about is here
— In addition to all its troubling implications for war, psychology and life in the military, the Fort Hood tragedy also was a referendum on citizen journalism, at least for TechCrunch's Paul Carr
, who used one Fort Hood soldier's rather juvenile tweets as an example of why "the 'real time web' is turning all of us into inhuman egotists." Dave Winer dismissed it
as intentionally flawed "rubbish," designed to bring in traffic by making an inflammatory argument. British blogger Suw Charman-Anderson
gives it a much more thorough debunking, raising questions about just about every fact or argument Carr asserts. And Howard Weaver recounts
his Twitter argument with Jay Rosen over whether Carr's concerns should be taken seriously.
I think they should, despite how reckless Carr is with his argument, as Charman-Anderson points out. I don't think it's reasonable for him to extrapolate one tweeter's behavior onto the rest of us as a society, but neither do I think his concerns can be pooh-poohed with the statement that, as Charman-Anderson says, "Some of what gets done with social media is good and some is bad. This is not news, nor new." Social media does have effects on us, both culturally and morally, and that's well worth looking into, particularly academically. (To Charman-Anderson's credit, she suggests that type of research be done as well.)
But I fundamentally agree with Weaver (and Howard Owens in his comment on Weaver's post): This is not a foundational failure of social media; this is a failure of our collective filter. (And not even that: As Charman-Anderson shows, this soldier probably got far more exposure in Carr's post than anywhere else.) Of course there are going to be idiots who post stupid, irresponsible and downright wrong things during breaking news events. There always have been, and the advent of social media doesn't change that. That just underscores the importance of filtering that firehose of real-time information and providing something that's of real value to users. To quote Weaver
: "The jerks are always with us. Let them screech. It's how we collectively handle them that matters."
— I had planned on leading off with my thoughts on Twitter Lists
and Fort Hood in particular, but so much has been said about them in the past week or two that as I read a lot of it, I realized the best I could do would be to point you to the best stuff, rather than try to pile on yet another mostly useless opinion. So here goes:
If you're trying to figure out The Meaning of Twitter Lists, the place to start is The Columbia Journalism Review
, where last Tuesday Megan Garber covered just about everything that had been written about them to that point, then mused about how they may end up shoehorning people into playing the roles that others expect them to play, rather than using Twitter a free-associative, personality-driven tool. Robert Scoble, one of the giants of social media, has written two wonderful posts on the subject, the first on lists as the new RSS
, and the second as part of an enlightening exploration
of the value of hearing online from only people you want to hear. (A few weeks ago, Dave Troy
also had some great thoughts on Twitter Lists' impact on influence and its importance in curation.)
Then came the next level of discussion for us future-of-journalism junkies: What do these lists do for the news?
Early last week, Columbia grad student Vadim Lavrusik
had a neat little overview on Mashable of some of the cool things news organizations have done with lists. Then on Thursday came the Fort Hood shooting, and suddenly, we had one huge concrete example to work with. Again, CJR's Garber has the most insightful analysis
of that "first test" of Twitter Lists for journalism went, and her conclusion is worth quoting: " ... through, in particular, the deceptively simple innovation that is the hyperlink, news outlets are increasingly defined by connection rather than separation. ... And that, in turn—fundamentally, if not completely—topples the competitive underpinnings of newsgathering as a profession."
Meanwhile, Craig Kannalley of Poynter
goes into the details of how news orgs created and maintained their Fort Hood Twitter lists, and over at MediaShift, Publish2's Ryan Sholin is concerned
that overeager news folks might be diminishing some of Twitter Lists' value through too much repetition. And this morning, The New York Times
pointed to another feature Twitter plans to roll out soon — "geolocation" — as something that could help lists cut through the overwhelming amount of information on Twitter.
— Just down the road from Fort Hood, The Texas Tribune
, a new online nonprofit
focusing on Texas state government, launched this week. Pretty much everybody loved it
. Editor-in-chief Evan Smith talked with paidContent
about the business side (their budget's covered for two years) and with Poynter
about his plans to make databases of government info more available to the public, including other journalists.
— Rupert Murdoch announced
he's delaying his planned rollout of paywalls for his newspapers' websites. (It was intended to be done by next June.) Meanwhile, Stephen Brill of paid-content coordinator Journalism Online says
five to 15 online publishers are planning to slowly, stealthily introduce his paid-content system within the next month or so. But Alan Mutter, the online news business guru, says
he's skeptical about how many publishers have the guts to go through with a paywall. And Jason Fry
has a strong argument that the reasons that paywalls are a shaky idea are not technical ones, but issues of quality and increased competition.
— Jeff Jarvis, the CUNY professor and author of "What Would Google Do?,"
has written quite a bit in the past about the place for entrepreneurship within new business models for news
. This week he wrote something of a manifesto
on the topic, looking at what it means to say, "The future of news is entrepreneurial." Judy Sims responds with a word to the wise
: Make sure you talk to your advertisers first if you want to make any money.
— I leave you with three good reads, in descending order of density: 1) A nifty essay by PR expert Brian Solis
predicting the future of the social web (with dates!); 2) a short but fantastic piece
by Time media critic James Poniewozik on the political media's primary bias: centrism; and 3) a summary of NYU professor Jay Rosen's speech
to an Australian social media conference, which also serves as a neat little summary to the ideas Jay's been evangelizing in general lately. If you follow his Twitter feed closely for about a week or two, he'll probably hit on each one of these, but it's good to have them all in one place.