One thing that annoys me constantly is “moral high ground” and it seemed to be the constant theme at the IBC session titled “How Wikileaks, Facebook and Twitter changed news production forever”.
First from Kevin Bakhurst from the BBC and this is actually no surprise. The BBC always represent itself as that great organization that people can thrust with a strong moral rules in terms of how the information is “vetted”. He presented how the BBC has a full unit working 24/7 monitoring social media and checking the validity and sources of the content before using it. Also, I think there was something pathetic in explaining that their high moral values (they wait for the families to be notified before announcing the someone is dead or don’t divulge name of minor) make them seemed like slow in news reporting.
Interesting enough, he was followed on stage by Simon Bucks from Sky News who showed us how they use media gathered on the internet but that their news anchors comments at every two words that what they show is “unverified” and could be true or not. And of course he repeated the same theme about morale and verification than the speaker from the BBC. An interesting point that he raised is that often the seemingly “user generated content” related to the major event (such as the “Arab Spring”) are really content produced and posted by organized groups that are promoting their interests and viewpoint.
Followed on stage was Stephen Phelps taking about the Al Jazeera program “The Stream”. This program has been on-air for a few months now, I have seen it online a few times so far thanks to former colleague of Current TV Andrew Fitzgerald who works there. The show actually reminds me of some of the stuff we did early on at Current. One of is main thing that he noted about this program is the discovery that the quality of Skype video is completely acceptable to the audience of the show since the target audience is used to see that quality. It also enables them to have guest that they otherwise couldn’t (for example the guy that twitted the live killing of Ben-laden without knowing it).
Julien Codorniou from Facebook in France didn’t have a formal presentation (contrary to the others). He explained that his team’s role is to work with news organizations to make use of Facebook and also to make sure that there is good content on Facebook. He says that Facebook things that social media should provide a great individual media experience to everyone based on their “social graph”. He also commented that he sees the future of journalist as “community managers”!
I noted also that while the title of the session was leading with Wikileaks, they all make sure to all avoid the subject completely. The last person to ask a question from the floor did actually raise that point… and the participant made sure to skate around the subject saying that it is just another source on the Internet.
It’s a question of protecting their interest for a news organization to claim moral high ground and basically say “trust us” (implying don’t trust them) and the two UK organization were the most insistent on it. I couldn’t help myself in making a parallel to the England’s imperialist past who was also taking moral high ground. Maybe that’s just me…