Last Friday evening our planners swapped the bright lights of Fitzrovia’s finest public houses, for the BBC and their annual Royal Television Society lecture. Hayley debriefs us.
The past twelve months has seen social media embedded into the fabric of broadcast news stories, from the Arab Spring to the London Riots. “Traditional” journalists are finding themselves tasked with evolving to satisfy the changing needs of its public.
But with overwhelming amounts of information available instantaneously, where does today’s journalist begin in sorting the gems from the guff?
Social hasn’t just changed the manner through which news is shared, but fundamentally the speed at which it reaches audiences. Success for journalists was typically akin to the 100m sprint final - measured in how many seconds coverage broke before their rivals. With the news becoming increasingly democratised and stories told through the filter of 340 million tweets, from 500 million users a day, this race has been effectively called off.
Far from quashing journalists’ endeavours however, it’s enriching the stories from the inside out. Affirmed by Lyse’s admission that in the field, mobile is relied on as much as TV cameras to tell stories, social media has opened up a new route to reaching audiences directly, getting tip offs and information straight from the proverbial horses’ mouths. She cited the Arab Spring as an example where visa restrictions barred journalists from covering the uprising, yet social outlets allowed them to reach the seemingly unreachable eyewitness reports in real time.
All sounds pretty good so far, so why not bow out gracefully and hand over the reins of the news to the masses? Can’t we just leave it to a string of tweets to tell the story? Amongst a myriad of reasons, looms the danger of authenticity. World leaders announced dead. Hoaxes spread in minutes. Propaganda given an outlet to breed. How do journalists minimise the risk of reporting the wrong story?
Dedicated User Generated Content units are growing rapidly across broadcast outlets such as the BBC; quietly transforming how the news is gathered and reported by a hub of journalists that sift through stories, pictures and videos sent in by the public. And with the reassurance and reality check of these correspondents wading through the kaleidoscope of online reportage, new systems have been built to allow news to be broken on TV and online simultaneously and crucially, with confidence.
Lyse emphasised herself the importance of accuracy, “Second and right is better than first and wrong” – a mantra that seems equally fitting for everything that comms touches.
So the age old relationship of story and storyteller remains. Whilst a flurry of tweets may be first to break the news, TV journalism still holds the power to step back, to draw breath, and to tell the story behind the tweets.
With the acceptance that the monopoly on delivering news has well and truly broken, social media’s contribution has meant that journalism is no longer an exclusive club, but cohabits with and empowers its audience. Approaching social with the same tenants of journalistic integrity – to try and understand a story and to try and get it right - means that social media is far from killing TV journalism, but may just be its greatest confirmation yet.