At the National Association of Broadcasters conference last week, I attended a session called Social Media and the Business of Live Television. During the Q&A section of the talk, a woman asked a question about the baffling new trend in television news where newscasters read tweets from viewers on air. Whether it be reactions to the current story, comments on the news cast, or just whatever some idiot decides to tweet while using the approved hashtag, news programs just can’t stop giving people their 15 minutes of fame.
The woman who asked the question wanted to know exactly why newscasters do this. She didn’t see the value of it, and judging from the sounds of approval, neither did the audience. They found it vapid, uninteresting, and just plain dumb. The response from the panel was essentially, “Yeah. It’s pretty dumb. We’re still going to do it though.” This was supplemented with other buzzword-filled answers such as: “Tweets are news now.” and “This is what millennials respond to.”
I’m going to ask you to stop right there. I heard the word “millennial” way too much at the NAB Show. The definition of a “millennial” is “a person born in the 1980s or 1990s.” I fit that definition. So, as a “millennial,” as all you “old media” professionals love to call me, I would like to say, please stop telling me what I want instead of listening to what I’m telling you. You wonder why my generation doesn’t watch news on TV, why the percentage of news we get from television and broadcasting is approximately 0%. Well wonder no more, for I have your answer. We want you to do your job.
Don’t read tweets on the air. Don’t talk about the traffic this post is getting on Facebook. And for the love of God, don’t talk about whatever stupid video is “taking over the Internet.” You don’t want to do it. We don’t want to see it. We want news. Plain and simple.
Most young people who actually seek out news prefer to read it on the Internet rather than watch it. They get it from NPR, Politico, Slate, or even BuzzFeed. Can you guess why? Because in written stories, you don’t get bogged down with all the “shiny objects” that TV news is constantly trying to throw at you. We don’t need to be pandered to.
In all boils down to the simple fact that tweets aren’t news. Tweets are people reacting to news. People who, in all likelihood, do not have journalism degrees or broadcasting experience. Their tweets are not fact-checked, their biases are not accounted for. They are not the journalists. You are. Don’t outsource your responsibilities to the masses. When you start reporting on tweets you are no longer reporting news. News is not a reaction to itself.
Look, we want the same thing. Trust me. I’ve heard many a middle-aged person get all nostalgic about Walter Cronkite. I don’t know if it’s possible to be nostalgic about something that you weren’t around to experience, but I definitely feel something very similar to that. All I want is for someone to sit down and tell me the truth for 30 minutes. All I want is for journalists to do their jobs.
– Olivia Guns