I must say that this weekend’s Social Media stream on natural disasters triggered very mixed feelings. I followed both the devastating earthquake in Chile, and the brutal storm over France live on social media. Twitter and YouTube proved to be way faster than CNN and even the local French news desk. The social media warrior in me had a glorious “told you so” moment, the journalist in me felt fundamentally and completely by-passed. Simply no way in covering news any faster than this live-stream… you can follow the ripples of the news as they unfold.
What is astonishing is the near real time experience. The constant stream fully local tweets gives a hallucinating vivid image of what is happening. Multiple channels (more people tweeting on the same event) and location tracking filter out hoaxes and disinformation. Direct links to online pictures, videos and text-content give this crowd-journalism a cross-media and very visual impact.
As Social Media can be done on most mobile phones these days, the technical barrier to use it is extremely low. Anyone armed with an 89 dollar phone can cover, edit, shoot, post and share news-as-it-is-happening and will probably have hours of head start before a traditional journalist can work on the premises.
But as the stream of abhorrent news kept on flooding my trackers and feeds, the big difference between this unfolding disaster covered by people who are involved (even committed) and the more distant approach of the traditional channels became very clear.
It is not all about speed, and volume of data. TV gives you a filtered, selected story based on information that is carefully put in a context. It is calibrated for a normal audience. Too shocking or disturbing facts and images will be polished, or left out.
The news will be packed in an item that is tailor made for understanding and assimilating.
Social Media feeds are unfiltered, un-blurred, and raw. It puts you right at the receiving end of a fire hose of pure emotion and drama that is happening right now. You are simultaneously voyeur, analyst, journalist, editor and news anchor.
My question is: can you handle it?