Thursday, June 25, 2009

On MSM vs. Twitter

Michael Jackson is dead. Long live the Thriller.

That's not what this story is about, however. The more interesting thing is how this story, like so many these days, unfolded. I simultaneously heard about it on Twitter and heard Chuck P. on Internet radio station Indie 103.1 mention that he was reading it also.

Now let me say this about that. In the entire time that I've been on Twitter, I've seen many stories broken: earthquakes, the plane in the Hudson, the unrest in Iran. All reported on Twitter long before any traditional news outlets get ahold of them.

Having worked in newspapers, I understand this. The traditional pattern for a news organization is that you hear a rumor. You go check it out. You get at least two separate sources to confirm the news/rumor. Then you go with it. Not before.

However, let me just suggest that news organizations need to rethink this a bit. Not that they should run with unconfirmed reports, but let me go further into this Michael Jackson is dead story.

After reading it in multiple places on Twitter, including reports which said "I've talked to his tour promoters. They confirm the death." (which was good enough for me to believe it), the mainstream media (MSM) insisted on walking through their paces, dragging out what we on Twitter already knew.

Luckily, we had TMZ, who had initially broken the story, confirming it. Then the LA Times confirmed that he was in a coma, and then confirmed his death.

We end up with the bizarre reality of CNN "kinda" reporting his death. "The LA Times has confirmed, but CNN has not..." WTF?

CBS News confirms. Then ABC News confirms. Still CNN holds out. What are they waiting for? By this time, there are friends of the family, UCLA staff, city staff, all of whom are quoted on Twitter as having confirmed it. It really made CNN look laughable.

Sure, I understand. It's a big story. You don't wanna get it wrong.

But here's my other truth, as I told a friend of mine who was skeptical just hearing it from Twitter. There has not been ONE single thing that I've heard first on Twitter as fact, that didn't turn out to be so. Twitter is not a place for rumor-mongering, that I've seen. It is a network of people able to get news in ways that other people not right next to his hospital bed cannot. And should be respected as such.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Bruno's Butt Signifies a New Media Paradigm Change

Maybe it's already happened somewhere else, and it escaped my attention. But to me, the moment I saw the tide turning on the new media revolution will always be marked by Bruno's bare butt.

People can discourse endlessly about how silly Twitter is (cause they don't use it) and how no one wants to hear about what you had for breakfast (because they don't get it), but there is a very real revolution happening here. And it's happening on all fronts: TV, radio, newspapers (what's left of them), magazines.

Here is the weapon we are using: transparency. People on Twitter and in all social media are becoming, like it or not, more honest about their lives and what matters to them. It has become a mass force, whether those in power realize it or not. A tide that would now be difficult to turn. If you are in the media, you would do well to adopt the new honesty.

Let's take another look.

In previous days, stars hired publicists to create stunts for them to get their name in the press. I heard just recently about some publicist admitting to hiring the bobby soxers to scream for Frank Sinatra. (To which I say, shameful.) In any case, it went on. It went on a lot. And the public was blissfully ignorant to these maneuverings. They took whatever craziness they saw in the press as "just those wacky folks in Hollywood."

But just now, something astonishing has happened. 

We have a pretty spectacular stunt at the MTV Awards. Sasha Baron Cohen, in the guise of his new character, Bruno, comes out, dressed as an angel, flying through the air, but askew. As if something has gone wrong. He lands, butt in Eminem's face. Eminem and bodyguards storm off. And SCENE.

One could, perhaps, detect something shady about this event by the fact that MTV's cameras cut to Eminem just BEFORE Bruno lands, looking worried. Or the fact (and maybe only Hollywood folk know this) but any guy handling the rigging for someone flying who lets them instead land on a celebrity would NEVER have a career in this town again.

So, even before Andy Sandberg's writer came out with the concept that it had been rehearsed, WE KNEW. We knew and had already dismissed it as a fakery. Not just we jaded Hollywood types who view everything through fake eyes. No, the mainstream Twitter universe knew. And were saying so.

And to me, that moment represents a landmark watershed event. The tide has truly turned on fakery and lies.

Now, if Eminem and Bruno wanted to be truly au courant, they would just man up and say, yeah, we thought it'd be a funny gag. It was staged. We'd laugh. They would really look cool. Instead, they are sticking with the "no, it was a horrible tragedy" story.

Made me think back to that brouhaha with Eminem and Michael Stipe a few years back. Nothing is real. Except the new reality in the new transparent universe we live in. Tell the truth. You'll like it.