Breaking News via Facebook

There's a bit of a political kerfluffle brewing right now in Greensboro over a recent redistricting vote by the City Council.  It's been a hot topic at Ed Cone's blog, which everyone in Greensboro knows is where you go to be seen, er heard, er read when you want to vent your spleen about the goings on in what is likely North Carolina's whiniest city. What's interesting to me is that Ed just broke the news that one of the City Council members announced that she's going to ask that the vote be reconsidered, and she made the announcement via her Facebook status.  

It would be easy to just say that this is a sign of the times, and it is, but upon further examination I think there are some fairly interesting ramifications in this simple act. Here are some that have come to mind:

  • Any reporter "friended" by a public figure who uses Facebook as a primary communication vehicle will have a competitive advantage over a reporter who isn't. Public figures have always had preferred members of media and I suspect they've always cherry-picked who they leak news to, but this is a very public way to play favorites with members of the media. 
  • Of course the public figure can also completely "disintermediate" the media by friending everyone but the media, thereby communicating directly with their audience and excluding the media.
  • Whether or not a member of the media is included or excluded, the news will be old to a healthy chunk of the audience by the time the 5 o'clock news airs or tomorrow's paper is printed.
  • This development has only reinforced my conviction that "news" operations need to move away from the shallow "breaking stories" MO and move quickly towards deep and analytical stories that provide context and avoid titillation and tattling.  In other words most of us now know what happened with the Greensboro redistricting, but few of us really know why.  Giving us the "why" is where the professional media can make hay.
  • In another interesting twist I've found that most of the really good comments on Ed's blog are posted by the professional journalists (I'm thinking of Joe Killian here) who often provide context and expert understanding of the issues in response to other commenters on Ed's posts.

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