London riots show how traditional journalism has to be reshuffled
Dec 10, 2011
London riots expose limitations of traditional journalism in the age of social media.
At a BBC-organized seminar on social media in June, a participant asked the panel if the event was being streamed. When the panel responded no, he revealed, "Yes, it is. I'm filming on my iPhone and broadcasting. Doesn't that scare you?" This sparked a heated debate, with journalists admitting that a company will never be nimble enough to cover "everything".
Fast forward to early August. On a Monday night, when incidents in London were escalating, I was unaware of the situation's severity. I wondered if anyone had thought to map the incidents using Google Maps or a similar tool. The Guardian did this the next day on their excellent Data Blog. However, a London blogger had already done so more than 24 hours earlier. Once again, crowd journalism had prevailed.
On Tuesday morning, I was shocked by the lack of information about the London events in the Folha de São Paulo. There wasn't a single story that had been investigated after 7 PM on Monday. The follow-ups by journalists were equally poor. Readers who hadn't gone to bed early were left with nothing but recyclable paper.
In reality, anyone who followed the right Twitter accounts had the best coverage of the event through Biz Stone's microblog. Even newspapers like The Guardian, which usually have superior journalistic instincts, lost out. In a non-localized live event, traditional coverage simply can't capture everything. However, there's always someone on every street, in every alley, capable of broadcasting live events.
Media outlets willing to deeply integrate with social media have a great opportunity to reinvent themselves as information curators - the new role of journalists. Newspapers and magazines are losing the battle to stay ahead of the news. While there's still a place for reflection and analysis, it's pointless to fill newsrooms with recent graduates on flat salaries. The hard news is now in the hands of those who can keep up with it. The traditional press can still survive if they adapt. Otherwise, they're facing their own ice age.