August 25th, 2010 by Andy Didyk
So here I am, making good on my promise to post once again. I just read a story on CNN.com that blew my mind. The subject matter is disturbing, and the journalistic methods employed are equally jarring. Here’s the headline:
The story goes on to talk about how 3 Colombian teenagers were tragically gunned down recently, and that their names are part of a list of approximately 70 or so individuals that someone posted on Facebook as having 72 hours to leave town or be executed (run-on, I know, but I’m summarizing here!).
Now, since journalism became a for-profit industry in the second half of the last century (and even more so as a part of the “information revolution”), I’m of the opinion that depth, context, and facts are mattering less and less, while shock-value, real-time updates, and popular memes carry the headlines. I’m not going to pretend I’m a journalism expert – I’m a blogger, obstensibly in a different category than “real” journalists, because what I write is always my opinion and is understood by my readers as such.
Soapbox aside, here’s what concerned me about the article. Check out this excerpt:
Several of those residents posted their concerns on Twitter, an online messaging site.
“Panic in Puerto Asis, Putumayo, because of threats against young people,” wrote a user who goes by JuanSepulvedah. “Our youth must be protected.”
Someone who posted under the name JulianEco brought up the Facebook connection.
“The situation in Puerto Asis is tenacious, that a social site be used to add fire to the Colombian conflict,” the post said.
Twitter user hugoparragomez likened the situation to the drug-fueled crime waves in other Colombian cities.
“What is happening in Puerto Asis, Putumayo, is grave, the same as in Medellin,” the tweet said. “Authorities should take control of the situation. Who is investigating?”
Still others inflated the death count.
“In Puerto Asis they have killed 20 young people threatened on Facebook and the authorities have not said anything,” wrote jesusmhenriquez “That is Colombia.”
I understand that the reporter is trying to give some sense of context to the story, but really, Twitter posts as the equivalent of a first-person interview? My purpose in bringing this up is not merely to be critical or “old-school” in any way, but rather to comment on how astonishing it is that a completely anonymous posting by a Twitter user is being used in place of a quote from a true witness or confirmed (e.g., fact-checked), Colombian citizen. For all that reporter knows those “tweets” could be bogus and/or plants.
I know enough to know that social media played an important role in publicizing the horrific recent political events in Burma, Iran, and Sri Lanka, and Tibet that would have otherwise been completely censored by their respective governments. Again, my point isn’t to disparage the medium of Twitter. It’s more to question its apparent acceptance as a viable source for journalistic fact, or even legitimate literary context. What do you think?
This entry was posted on Wednesday, August 25th, 2010 at 12:57 am and is filed under communication, consumerism, social media. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.