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Truth, the fox & a little twitter.

June 30, 2009

A number of interesting facts came to my attention this week which I feel compelled to bring to your attention.

The first fact that left me absolutely gobmacked, yet somehow reassured was that Fox successfully argued that they could use the first amendment to essentially lie when telling the news.

Why did this reassure me? It reassured me that the old media guard is under siege and surely can’t survive much longer in the face of the power of tools such as Twitter. When real time news can be spread directly from the source to the masses, there is hope that news will become less about ‘spin’ and more directly accountable. Let’s also hope that people will no longer tolerate the ‘pop’ and/or fear propaganda masquerading as news being thrown at them daily on the television or through tabloids.

My hopes in this department are encouraged by a recent interview by TED in which they interviewed Clay Shirky regarding the situation in Iran and how Twitter has been used to encourage collective action. You can read the full interview here. Essentially Clay talks about the fact that Twitter actually encourages empathy because we feel faster than we think. It’s definitely an interesting point, and the worldwide impact of the Iranian people’s use of Twitter has been extraordinary. They have not only brought their plight to the worldwide stage, they have also encouraged collective action on the issues at stake.

In this change toward real-time news there must be a mechanism to ensure that sources are checked and crossed checked. However, it seems to me that with the power of Twitter any false sources will be quickly weeded out in less time than it takes traditional media to verify, pull together a story, and print or run the story on television. A recent example of this is the absurd announcement on Australian national television that Jeff Goldblum was dead. Within minutes of the claim, a number of tweets from friends and associates of Jeff Goldblum confirmed the actor was in fact alive and well.

I’m not advocating the death of journalism, good research or storytelling. Far from it, I think that real-time news feeds and tools such as Twitter will simply weed out average writers, presenters etc as they simply won’t be necessary.

Hopefully those journalists etc that remain will do so because they have meaningful insights or impeccable storytelling abilities. Either that or they will be famous and/or goodlooking in a plastic way. I’m hoping there will be more of the talented former and less of the plastic latter.

There are those that are scared that the move to news feeds and social media will lead to information overload and a lack of empathy. However, we need to keep in mind the fact that tools such as Twitter are just that – tools. If we also keep communicating in other meaningful ways with each other then I think we’ll just be fine. We should all heed Julia Angwin’s advice and next time we make a call or see someone face to face ask them, ‘How are you really?’

And I’m all for bringing back a sacred tradition – let’s all start to switch our phones off when we’re sitting at dinner with our friends, family or colleagues. Technology can never replace the intimacy of face to face conversation and the importance of taking the time to actually listen to other people.

Technology certainly can add another dimension to the sharing of information and conversation though.

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