There is a worrying thing happening to news in the world.
It has to trend.
News is no longer about bringing you the news you need to know. It needs to trend on Twitter or get shared on Facebook as much as possible. News organisations can say what they want, but if something isn’t getting the retweets or shares, then they will feel as if they have not done their work correctly.
There have been two plane crashes this week and those stories are making headlines in South African media. The people in the planes aren’t South African nor are the airlines South African, yet it seems to be making bigger news than things you really need to know about, like ESKOM, the Rand/Dollar exchange and other local crime stories.
I have been in a newsroom with a directive that crime can’t lead a news bulletin. That is why you hear so many court stories these days, because it isn’t quite crime, and it shows that the criminal justice system might well be working. But it still shows that there is crime. Today, newsroom editors trawl Twitter and see what is trending then they very quickly try and run a story based on those trends.
I can understand a newsroom following Twitter, but the worry is that now the newsroom is trying to lead the trending. Newsrooms will debate on what the hashtag should be to run on top of the story. Carte Blanche on MNet started doing it well but is that what a news organisation should be doing? Creating hashtag trends?
I am a great fan of the TV show, The Newsroom, and most of the final season was about this very topic. How does an old medium, like TV, keep up with the modern world. Their best fight now is to become a trend. But the problem with TV is that once it has been broadcast, it’s gone. YouTube is there always and you can watch it when you want to.Newsrooms need to start giving people what they need. They are already getting what they want.