Saturday, June 27, 2009

Could, Twitter Be the News Heroes After All?

ONE READER of my original posting WRITES:

Who was really doing better journalism here with better sources? It looks like had an excellent source and they beat the pants off of more traditional organizations. I wonder why the LA Times didn't know what was going on sooner. Isn't that their territory? It looks to me like they got scooped in a big way.

The more we learn about what happened at Michael Jackson's home on the day of his untimely death, the more things seem to look better for, a Web site I criticized in an earlier posting.

A missing doctor, questions about prescription drugs, an investigation involving the Los Angeles Police Department's all suggest this story is just beginning.

Today's New York Times calls it a "Twitter-enhanced luminary spectacle"

Pete Cashmore on the Mashable Social Media Guide cited the tracking tool Twist, which reported at one point, about 30 percent of Tweets were remarking in Michael Jackson's passing.

The Tribune-owned newspaper addressed the initial Tweets in a separate posting on its Comments blog.

The Los Angeles Times reports the investigation now focuses on whether Jackson overdosed on prescription drugs as results of the initial autopsy were inconclusive.

If the overdose turns out to be the actual cause of death, it certainly places a different spin on the timing of the events of Thursday.

Looks Like I have company

It is interesting to note that I wasn't the only one who took note of the order of events in Thursday's media reporting.

Peter Kafka of The Wall Street Journal's "All Things Digital" site includes a more-detailed look at the same topic.

Gotta say-- I'm a Wall Street Journal print subscriber (In fact, my Saturday edition has already arrived in the tube outside) and until today I had never heard of Peter Kafka's Media Memo.

About those Facebook Status Updates

Likewise, another blogger, Zack Whittaker, also got into this same discussion as it relates to how much we believe in the Tweets on Twitter. He also include the status updates on Facebook in his discussion.

While I don't think much of those Facebook updates, we certainly can't ignore their role in the larger social networking arena.

The question still remains: to what extent can viewers rely on them in the time of breaking news?

Maybe, that's not as relevant to the discussion about the future of journalism as I am making it.

When people read those updates, they don't expect to get the same credible or reliable information they get from a trusted news source, right?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Michael Jackson Coverage Shows Journalists Are Still Critical

ATLANTA-- I've been sitting in an Atlanta hotel room watching on TV and online all the coverage of today's shocking news of the death of Michael Jackson.

And, the big thing I came away with -- Journalists are needed NOW more than EVER.

Even as I finish up a three-day return visit here to the same media market where I once worked as a television news producer, I see my old television station doing a ever-so-delicate dance between being careful not to report rumor and not ignore what was happening online. The above story from TMZ illustrates the rumors of Jackson's death and never mentions what has been reported elsewhere-- that he died later after CPR was performed. breaks the story

Here's what happened: a celebrity gossip Web site reported almost an hour before the rest of the media that Jackson was dead.

But, was he? Or, was that just rumor?

Minute-by-minute the story was changing on the MSNBC, LATimes, KTLA, KNBC and CNN Web Site. I found myself wanting to take electronic pictures of the Web sites as they struggled to keep up with the story that was breaking.

Atlanta's FOX Affiliate, WAGA-TV decided to go with the story putting it on the air during its 5 p.m. newscast.

Likewise, FOX's Los Angeeles affiliate online posted the story that JAckson had died.

Was this responsible journalism?

Is a reliable enough source to go with reporting the death of one of the most highly-recognized superstars?

Reportedly, it wasn't until 3:15 p.m. Pacific Time that Jackson was pronounced dead. CBS Reporter Bill Whitaker made sure to recount the timeline, an important journalistic strategy to convey to readers/viewers HOW It all came down.

NBC Nightly News at 6:20 p.m. did what's known as a "cut-in" (interruption of regular programming) that the pop superstar had died.

WXIA-TV Reports Twitter's Initial Rumors

While it used an NBC Reporter's update at the top of its 6 p.m. newscast that did NOT report Jackson was dead, Atlanta's NBC affiliate, WXIA had its Web reporter Chris Sweigart share Tweets from the micro-blogging Web site, Twitter.

The broadcast media, especially those that own newspapers, have decided that there is such a large audience on social networking Web sites that is NOT watching their over-the-air, scheduled newscasts, that they must showcase these sites in their newscasts.

The ethical question here is-- what if those sites are reporting rumor? Even though you couch your report by saying "This is what THEY are saying on the Web," is it ok to re-transmit rumor?

I applaud the reporters at the Los Angeles Times and the network newscasts-- like NBC Nightly News and CBS Evening News who, as difficult it was to do in the face of gossip and social networking sites, did the RIGHT thing.

They waited until they had verified and independently confirmed information such as the death of Jackson.

Rather than racing to be first, they did showcased for viewers to see how it all went down-- and they did it fast. But, when their stories aired, they were correct and could be trusted.

That's what good journalists do.

The Challenge

Traditional media are losing audience for their traditional outlets. But, the trained journalists who still work there are the ones on whom the public can rely for accurate, well-sourced news and information.

Some may say the important thing is to report that Michael Jackson died. But, after this story moves from the headlines, will some people still be under the impression that journalism is dead?

Quite the contrary-- Journalism is ALIVE and WELL. We saw that today!

Full disclosure: I was once-employed by WXIA-TV (which is mentioned in this report) as a news producer from 1995 to 2000. Ironically, one of my responsibilities in 2000 was updating the station's Web site.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Two Class Reunions, Two Reminders from Dad

It's Father's Day and when I made my "Happy Father's Day" call this morning to dad back home in Richmond, I was reminded of one of the most important things he and my mother taught us-- the importance of a good education.

Yesterday, my father, Joseph Daniels, 77, attended a high school reunion with classmates of Goochland County, Virginia's Central High School, a former segregated all-black school that later was converted to a middle school.

This morning he shared with me his story of being able to see the valedictorian from his Class of 1948 and one of his teachers who attended the reunion.

He talked about the fact that he and the valedictorian were two of only four from his class who attended the event, which celebrated those who graduated up until the high school merged with the all-white school in 1969.

A College Reunion in May

Saturday's reunion was the second such major class reunion for father, who is a 1959 graduate of Hampton Institute (now Hampton University). As is the custom every five years, Hampton held a reunion for those whose graduating class ended in "4" and "9."

Going to his 50th college reunion (He served several years in the army between high school and college) was a big deal. But, seeing high school classmates after more than a half-century, just made his weekend.

Education as a Family Tradition

I often reflect on how blessed my brother and I are to be THIRD-generation college students. In African-American families that is particularly rare. But my dad's mother, Kate F. Allen, always prominently displayed her degree from Virginia Union University in her home.

As kids, we would see that education was important for her (She was a teacher). And, she passed that on to my dad, who then passed it on to my brother and me.

Grandma never got a chance to see me get my terminal degree and become a college professor. But, I know she would be proud that the legacy continues.

Today, on Father's Day, my dad's sharing his class reunions with me just reinforces one of his most important lessons of life.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Daniels Makes Bid for SPJ National Board

Like many of the candidates in the most recent presidential election, I have chosen to make a political announcement in an online environment.

This week after lots of thought and prayer, I am launching a bid for the national board of the Society of Professional Journalists, the nation's LARGEST, most broad-based group for journalists.

This has little to do with copying the strategies of Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton and everything to do with recognizing that this medium-- the World Wide Web IS where journalism can and does happen.

What Must SPJ Do?

As a forward-looking organization, the Society of Professional Journalists can no longer turn up its nose at those who present their reporting product exclusively in this medium.

During the upcoming Annual Convention of SPJ in late August, I will be among those on a slate of declared candidates to fill vacant seats on the SPJ Board.

What Will My Role Be?

As Campus Adviser At-Large, I look forward to doing much of what I have already done as a member, and most recently chair, of the Journalism Education Committee: working with other campus advisers to Keep the needs and concerns of campus chapters on the front-burner.

This year, I have enjoyed working with the Vice President for Campus Affairs, Neil Ralston, a journalism faculty member at Western Kentucky. I hope to continue to work with him in the next year as well.

I've watched as my Ithaca College colleague and vice chair of the Journalism Education Committee, Prof. Mead Loop has served in that role and as Adviser At-Large. He and Sue Kopen Katcef of the University of Maryland have been the "go-to" persons for advisers like myself who were new in the position.

While my local chapter isn't perfect, we've had enough bumps and bruises to help other SPJ campus chapters and their advisers.

What Issues Will I Confront?

One of those concerns expressed recently was the method of annual reporting. I'd like to see some discussion about how to refine/update this important system of accountability. Additionally, as a member of the Radio-Television News Directors Association (soon to be Radio-Television Digital News Association), I would like to be actively engaged in discussions about how SPJ can collaborate with our journalism organizations to keep our members on the cutting edge with jointly-sponsored training events and conventions.

As a Diversity Leadership Fellow in 2006, I saw the front end of SPJ's strategic planning process. Now, three years later, I want to have a more active role in making sure SPJ executes its strategic plan-- particularly in the areas of inclusiveness and society operations.