What if Twitter was our only news channel? Would we get accurate news? I know we'd get real-time news at lightning speed, but would it be reliable?
Saturday, we witnessed a sad event that epitomizes the dark side of college sports. When Cincinnati and Xavier played their annual crosstown rivalry basketball game, it turned into basketbrawl. An ill-conceived post-game press conference featuring two Xavier players proclaiming their team was a bunch of "gangstas who like to zip people up" punctuated the mess.
A quick check of the Twitter hashtags #Xavier, #TuHolloway, and #Bearcats showed a number of discrepancies in information from misquoted coaches and players to paraphrased point-making statements on both sides. When events get ugly, I am reminded why we need mainstream media.
- Reliability. Most mainstream journalists are subject to ethics codes, whether it's the Associated Press or the Society of Professional Journalists. They take their work seriously. Most of them have bosses that answer to subscribers or boards with expectations that rules will be followed. Social media journalists aren't there yet.
- Accuracy. Even though mainstream journalists occasionally publish a piece without thorough fact checking, it isn't a common practice. Traditional journalists have always prided themselves on being accurate, and in some circles, accuracy is still valued over speed. One advantage social media does have is its ability to check facts and find eye witnesses faster. However, "be quick but don't hurry" is still good advice in news. Citizen journalists aren't there yet.
- Professionalism. Most journalists are trained writer/reporters. So what, you say? I agree it's not a requirement, but it helps. I started out in journalism in college and ended up in English. It doesn't make me more ethical, but it does give me a sense of professionalism and appreciation for honoring the traditions of the craft. That professionalism shows up in quality in the final product.
Social media and traditional media make good partners. One without the other is lacking. Like yin and yang, we need both to get a complete picture.