Accountability via Social Media - Radiant

The Radiant Blog

Posted by Andrew VanderPloeg

I stopped for gas on the way home from work yesterday and as I was walking into the station to pay, I held the door for a lady that was behind me. She thanked me as she came through the door and proceeded to pick up a copy of our local daily newspaper. As she did that, she said to me, “wow, this paper keeps getting smaller and smaller every day”.

That exchange reminded me of a really intriguing seminar that Mark and I had the privilege of attending a few weeks ago. It was a seminar for the Eastern Canada Farm Writers’ Association (ECFWA) called Deciphering Social Media Tools. Being a presentation for a writer’s association, the focus of much of the presentation was on how social media, and more specifically, user-generated content like this blog, have affected journalism.

David Jones, of Hill & Knowlton Canada and author of the popular PR blog, prworks.ca and Ira Basen of the CBC made up two-thirds of the panel. Both are trained in traditional journalism and both have become students and users of social media tools over the past number of years. They spent a lot of time discussing how journalism has moved from a 1.0 model predicated on the ethic of filter content (i.e. editor), then publish, to the current 2.0 model that operates on a publish, then filter (i.e. crowdsourced) model.

Both clearly had a preference for the editorial model as they felt that it brought a level of accountability to the publishing of content and they cited real examples of challenges that unfiltered/unverified content have caused. For instance, last year, some of you may recall that a report was listed on CNN’s citizen-journalism platform iReport.com that Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, was suffering from chest pains and had been taken to the hospital. It turned out that the story was completely false, but in the hour that it took Apple to find out about and respond to the claim, Apple shares had dropped 5.4%.

So while I agree with both panellists in that they have a valid concern with the “publish, then filter“ model, there remain real challenges to the editorial-based, “filter, then publish” model as well. One need only remember back to the 2004 U.S. Presidential elections when at any given time, a TV viewer or Internet user could flip back and forth between CNN and Fox News to find totally different sets of numbers as to the “up-to-date election results” of the candidates. Predictably, on Fox News, President Bush was running way ahead and on CNN, U.S. Senator John Kerry was in the lead.

If nothing else then, what social media in the form of "journalism 2.0" has brought to the table has been an opportunity for a different voice to be heard in the arena and hopefully a level of accountability to be brought to a mainstream media base that has been proven to contain bias.