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The Lost Promise of the Digital First Newsroom

Credit: David Armano and Edelman Digital
There has been a good deal of conversation on Digital First News and the Social Newsroom.  The greatest value in the Digital First News dynamic lies far beyond featuring tweets from the public or viewers.  Below are a three key transformations that only a Digital First, Social Centric Newsroom can facilitate.

1. Real Time Vetting and Validation

Real-time news is incredibly powerful and deeply compelling.  In an era of incredible competition, news outlets and trusted content sources such as AP and Reuters are increasingly relying on citizen journalists, freelancers and unsourced Twitter chatter as real-time news sources.  

Unfortunately, poorly sourced and vetted news is often far from accurate.

In the recent conflict between Israel and Hamas, a number of mainstream "trusted" news organizations misrepresented featured imagery.  The emotional power of photography makes these errors all the more damaging.  Popular images that purported to show casualties from this conflict were in fact showing casualties in Syria, images of "Palestinians" running for cover were in fact Israelis and images purporting to show Israel firing missiles at Hamas were in fact Israel's defensive-measure called the Iron Dome.  This conflict was very poorly reported.

This trend repeated itself just last week in our very own, digital-savvy, tech news sector.

Last week, hundreds of trusted news sites reported on a fraudulent press release syndicated via a paid press release service.  These news organizations didn't wait for comment or validation from Google or ICOA, both of whom would have denied the fake press release.  PR Web's standards checks failed, these news organizations were played like a fiddle and somewhere someone had a laugh.  But the trust the public has in our industry took a hit.

When CNN, AP or Reuters make a mistake, it is often syndicated across dozens, hundreds or thousands of news sites.  These errors don't just reflect poorly on the individual news organization, they spread like a virus across the world, spreading disinformation and ultimately damaging the trust the public has in the news media overall.

Imagine if CNN or Reuters a real-time peer-validation such as Wikipedia's peer review setup.  Imagine a world where syndicated stories and imagery are accompanied by an API that shows a red overlay above the media that communicates that the stories are unverified until such a time as they are verified.  

A simple similar image search in Google could have corrected most of the reporting errors in the recent conflict.  A phone call could have corrected the errors in the Google-ICOA scandal.  If the news organizations don't have the resources to do this research then it's time they let their public do this work for them.

2. Cross-Organizational Discourse

I am sick of pundit rants on the news.  As is pretty much everyone I know.  Sure, conservatives still listen to Rush and Beck and liberals still watch Maher, but what we really enjoy is the discourse between them.  I want to see intelligent and informed debate and conversation.  The only cross-news organization debate of the last presidential campaign season involved anchors from Comedy Central and Fox News.  While I am a huge fan of Jon Stewart, is this really the only voice of liberal moderation ready to engage in productive, entertaining and in the end, meaningful dialog?

Twitter isn't just for broadcasting your opinions, it's a great platform for discussion.  

In a digital world, there is no reason not to have an informed and productive dialog across news organizations with opposing views.  If an anchor is smart enough to take analyze and report the news, surely he or she can manage an @reply.  

This discourse and the resulting aftermath would make for far more compelling content that one sided rants from pundits and would drive ratings.  

And as for the moderators, it's time we let the public be the moderator.  This isn't about a shouting match, and the public will call out social offenders for not adhering to the rules or truthful presentation of the facts.  It's time we let the dialog inform the audience.

3. Personalized News

Site owners know an incredible amount about their audience.  Advertisers are micro-targeting audiences.  With this incredible degree of targeting, why am I seeing the same front page as your grandmother?   


Digital First News isn't just a buzzword.  This trend is the future of this industry.  We, the publishing world as greater than the words we type.  We are the fourth estate.

And we are better than this: