So, an interesting thing happened last week for users and watchers of social media. The horrific (and cowardly) attacks in Mumbai were a chilling and gripping story line (as a news consumer, news producer and news professional)–but the best information and the best images were not coming from "all the usual places."
Instead, there was a constant flow of real time eye-witness data, video and images pouring into sites like Twitter, Seesmic, Mahalo, Jaiku.
So, this brings us to an interesting point in time in the information age–when can we substantially count on these social network sites as a source of information. Now, I work for a broadcast network adn spend a lot of time finding ways to work in social media to the flow of information. The biggest push back from managers, producers, on-air typles, pretty much everyone is–how do we know if the information is right? How can we confirm?
Believe me, I know how vital it is to confirm information before its use. Having gone through the long and drawn out process of being deposed in law suits, having to testify in law suits–I get it. But just because it comes from Twitter or Seesmic or any of the "citizen journalism" sites-does that make the information suspect?
I have spent times working at local TV stations, and taken random calls from viewers with the next great story for air. These "tipsters" as we called them back in the day are the early adopters of social networks. They had information they wanted share. Its what we do with Twitter, Plurk, Jaiku, YouTube, CBS Eye Mobile–all of them.
As the person on the other end of the phone, it was (and still is) my job to make sure that information is right before we put it on air. The game has not changed, the tools have just become more direct.
So back to the central issue-I think its a cross point. As platforms evolve, and the data flow becomes simpler, I am going begin requiring (probably first for producers then for on-airs) an ability to convert from social media to "confirmed news product." There is just too much information out there that we (and I use this term collectively) are missing because of "old school" rules in the new media age.