TV news fails with hostage taking-social media story

by PR Coach

Kenya shopping mall tragedy

Police save hostages after militants storm Kenya shopping center with guns and grenades.

This just in! TV discovers Twitter. At least that’s how it seemed watching a recent  national TV news story.

It felt like the early days of the internet, years ago. The CBC-TV news report I viewed fell well short of demonstrating the network knows how to use social media to cover a breaking story.

CBC-TV flounders trying to use social media coverage of the story

It’s a tragedy unfolding in Kenya. Militants storm an upscale shopping center with guns and grenades, killing 65 shoppers, taking hostages. It’s breaking news covered by international media.

The CBC news reader breathlessly introduces the story update. She describes the tragic shootings and hostage taking at the Kenyan shopping center. She hands the story off to her reporter colleague in-studio.

The reporter then gives us the update by turning her back to the camera, facing a large screen and reading half a dozen or more tweets from the screen.

No interpretation. No man/woman-on-the-street interviews. Just the reporter’s back to the camera while she points at a big screen and reads six or eight tweets for us.

Thanks for that!

I can read the tweets myself over your shoulder. This is where we expect a journalist to give us new facts, story developments, interviews with officials, security experts’ opinion, streeters with other shoppers and residents impacted by the tragedy.

Militant group Al-Shabab claims responsibility

Militant group Al-Shabab claims responsibility

Part of the “breaking” story reports some of the “official” tweets were from a group claiming responsibility for the assault. Their tweets could not be verified but were still shown.

Other tweets shared were from average netizens expressing solidarity and heartfelt concern for those affected.

Fair enough.

I just don’t need a national newscast to re-read tweets without adding insight. Forcing the audience to read over their shoulder while they read for us.

This is television, remember? Pictures? Live video? It’s not that the network hadn’t already shown wall-to-wall violent footage.

I’m sorry I couldn’t find a link to share the story so that you could judge it for yourself.

This story failed to meet journalistic standards and again showed the inability of traditional media to utilize social media effectively in news stories.

It was lazy weekend journalism on national TV. Probably due to a skeleton staff with not enough time to update and edit together additional story angles. No excuse.

Traditional media struggle with social media

Kenya shopping center gunmen hunted by police

Police hunt gunmen in Kenya mall

This isn’t unique to CBC-TV. CNN has dropped the ball many times too. Reporting incorrect facts gathered from social media during the Boston marathon tragedy for example. It’s a daily failure in other TV, newspaper and radio as news outlets race to break a story first.

Corrections are rarely or reluctantly made. Then the same mistakes are repeated the next day. And further spread on media’s own social media with few corrections and hardly a sincere apology in sight.

Traditional media are still struggling with how to integrate social media into news coverage. Reporters sometimes wrongly trust social media information or fail to verify social media sources or facts.

There aren’t any simple solutions to this social media dilemma for news media. They’re still getting to know social channels like the rest of us. Problem is, the audience is usually way ahead in learning about stories, getting updates and following breaking stories from any number of other social media channels.

We expect better from journalists. They’re paid to be better.

But if traditional media don’t learn how to integrate social media into their news coverage properly, they run the risk of becoming redundant or irrelevant.

And that’s a tragedy too!

Author: Jeff Domansky

Visuals: CNC News, CBC News, CBC News

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