Amongst the white noise spouted on social media about the death of Whitney Houston over the weekend, you may have seen a few bragging posts about the fact that the story apparently broke on Twitter 27 minutes before it was reported by a news organisation.
Furthermore, last week both the BBC and Sky issued social media guidelines to their staff reminding them of whom they work for and that it is their responsibility to go through the correct editorial processes before publishing stories – i.e. they are not to break stories on Twitter, or any other social media platform for that matter.
Now, journalists may argue that they lose the exclusive by not having the ability to break the story online as soon as they hear it, however they have to remember who pays their wages (clue: it’s not Twitter).
Yes, Twitter is a fantastic communication tool but it is not a media organisation. But by putting too much emphasis on its ability to break stories ahead of the media is completely disrespectful to the media. Twitter has managed to get so big because so many news and media organisations provide it with content on a daily basis. Damage the media organisations in any way and ultimately you damage the validity of Twitter. Take away sensible thought and opinion out of Twitter and you’ll be left with hearsay and conjecture, and people abusing footballers.
Regardless of what you think of the media following the Leveson enquiry, we need to have a strong media as it offers validity, editorial control, and an independent voice which keep government, organisations and individuals in check.
Journalists may claim that the guidelines are unfair and restrict them in their ability to break an exclusive however internal checks and balances ultimately help the media maintain integrity, which considering the damage done by constant revelations of the Leveson enquiry, the media badly needs.
Without a strong and responsible media we’ll be left with a constant stream of breaking stories on social media, where the facts are dubious and rumour is rife. What would you prefer?