The Hurricane and the New State of Journalism

Hurricane Irene blew one final nail into the coffin of “traditional” news media. Facebook is now its own news network. The real challenge now is how artfully traditional media blends social media into their new way of doing things. Adapt well or perish.

Despite the storm, our local Sunday newspaper still got delivered in the early morning hours. As it sat there in our driveway, pelted by sheets of rain, it was a drowning dinosaur. The storm news it contained was already outdated as the winds howled overhead.

Many TV stations had “interactive centers,” the new term  for gathering news quickly from someone else. So many of the visuals came from everyday people who were eyewitnesses to the calamity and quickly shared it with the world. Nearly every phone is a camera now and so many portable devices are instant uplinks. Many reporters referred to reports on Facebook, America’s relentelssly emerging news source.  

The communication explosion is both exciting and treacherous, just like the Old West. News operations must find a way to harnass this resource or be left behind. It won’t be easy. Journalism is a profession and many of these “citizen journalists” have little training, or perhaps even regard, for the accuracy, objectivity, and clarity needed in sound reporting. Our “instant culture” leaves little time for checking facts or establishing context.

In some ways, it is the Wild West again. The rules have changed. Everyone with a gun then, or a smart phone now, has a say. In the end, information consumers will have the biggest say in how they get their news, and from whom.

The writer is former TV news anchor/reporter and current adjunct Siena journalism professor.