April 4, 2009
Local television stations carry rivalry into social media
Even though some TV journalists, such as NBC's David Gregory, have been posting brief updates on the popular site Twitter for some time, Chattanooga's news outlets are more recent arrivals to the party.
Since I get about 80 percent of my news from Twitter, it's good to see these stations coming aboard (as well as the Chattanooga Times Free Press and other Tennessee newspapers). But I'm afraid that at least a couple of folks in the newsrooms just don't get it yet.
It seems that a user behind the WRCB account has been spending less time building relationships with the viewing public than "blocking" members of rival WTVC from being "followers" of the Channel 3 account. It works like this: say you have a Twitter account, and I choose to add your updates to my stream. For whatever reason, you don't want me to (say, if I'm one of those "free laptop" spammers), so you block me, and I am no longer listed among the Twitter users that follow your updates.
As several people have pointed out, unless users make their updates private, anyone can see all of them, whether they are a "follower" or not. Therefore the action taken by WRCB is literally pointless, in addition to being petty and silly.
One of the apple cart-upsetting things about Twitter is that a "regular person" can break news and post pictures of breaking news before any "real journalist" can possibly get to the location where said news is happening. All it takes is a moderately dressed cell phone and a free Twitter account--and the ability to use it. So this whole thing about "you saw/heard/read it here first" just doesn't carry as much weight as it once did. (NewsChannel9, I'm looking at you, too.) (UPDATE: After some conversation, WTVC assures me that by "first reported" they simply mean to point to a previous broadcast edition of the story, and not to claim exclusivity.)
I'm hoping that the current squabble ends quickly, and that more of our news crews start using Twitter to actually connect with the rest of us. (I have to say that Dan Lehr and his boss do a fairly good job already.)
Lastly, here are some Twitter tips for news outlets from former Nashville blogger Brittney Gilbert, who now runs a Bay Area meta-blog (if you will) for a CBS station in San Francisco: http://urlzen.com/aka.
Once again, we're seeing half-ass adoption of new media by the old guard. Under the old rules, competition "does not exist." In the new paradigm with Twitter, blogs, Google, and so forth, competition not only exists, it must be acknowledged by name, assimilated, and interacted with on a regular basis. Social media broadens the playing field for sure, but more importantly, it rewrites the rules.
If WRCB�or any institution for that matter�fails to recognize the shift, they've signed their own expiration date.
Posted by: David Morton at April 6, 2009 9:38 AM