Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Watching news happen in real time - and what to watch out for

I don't know about you, but I've been missing the CBC. I hadn't realized how much I'd come to depend on the news from them, both radio and TV, until the lock-out happened and I didn't have the familiar sources any more. (By the way, be sure to read and listen to Todd Maffin's blog if you're interested in getting the lowdown on the CBC strike.)

I read a lot of blogs, of course, and I subscribe to several on-line editions of major papers, so I'm not suffering from any lack of information. But I do find it convenient (and entertaining, I admit) to sprawl on the couch and watch the news with pictures. So I've found myself searching out difference sources for TV news.

When Hurricane Katrina hit, I started watching the coverage on CNN -- and became addicted, sort of. Since then, I've continued to flip to the Atlanta all-news channel whenever I was looking for a quick update on what is happening. And I've got to say that I've been impressed with how well CNN has integrated new media and hi-tech into it's news gathering operation.

Today, in Wired News online, I read an article about CNN's Situation Room, with Wolf Blitzer, which talks a bit about the people behind this "new-look" program. Anyone who's seen it will know what I mean...but until Katrina hit, I wasn't aware of all the stuff that was going on. It's an interesting piece.

I think that CNN, while leading the way in many respects, is just scratching the surface of integrating a lot of different news feeds into programming. There's a lot of stuff going on, and as we become ever-more connected, it's going to be interesting to see how these things evolve.

But one thing is clear. Things like blogging, podcasting, BitTorrent, file-sharing, IPods -- these things are not just flash-in-the-pan items. They are changing the way we perceive the world around us.

The tsunami at Christmas, Katrina last month, 9-11 four years ago, the war in Iraq -- they've all shown us a new face of the news. It's immediate, it has a huge impact and we're forced more than ever to make judgements about what we're seeing. The way the news is presented can make it seem so important that we forget that context is everything.

There is also another more insidious side to this "instant" coverage, however, as this article yesterday from MediaChannel.org points out. And that is that the media is more likely to blast out rumours, and we need to be vigilant in maintaining our own "filters" while we're watching all this. Not everything we see and hear is necessarily true. Caveat Emptor remains an apt warning, even if the stuff is free.

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