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Now the Details

Media, ethics, and journalism. What works. What doesn't.

Jeffrey Dvorkin

Monday, April 29, 2013

Why We Need a "Slow News" Movement

We've all heard about the "slow food" movement (an antidote to fast food) where one takes time to savor the experience.

We need a "slow news" equivalent. And fast!

The debacles of how the news gets (not) covered in Boston and Sandy Hook, show what happens when competitive pressures produce wrong and conflicting information. This is happening with more frequency.

Part of the problem has always been when news outlets compete to be both first and right. Competition in media can be healthy and serve the interests of the information-seeking public.

But media organizations are now competing with each other and with social media. The result is a sense of chaos, disinformation and a more public flailing around for the correct information.

Producing "live" news has always been fraught. But thrilling too. While on the air, we would assign someone to monitor the other broadcasters to make sure we weren't being scooped. Or if we were, then the race was on to advance the story to keep us in front. There's no adrenalin like a live news special.

But at least we felt we were in competition with other news organizations who (roughly) shared our sense of mission and commitment to accuracy.

Not so now, with the Twitterverse. Misinformation and disinformation abounds, along with some very smart people who are more nimble than the older organizations. Watching reporters on CNN, CBS and CBC looking at their smart phones while on the air, was a sign that the reporting has been transformed by the technology, once again.

Here's where the "slow news" movement can help. Nicolas Carr was interviewed recently by Michael Enright on CBC Radio's Sunday Edition. Carr talked about how the internet is (to quote Enright) "making us stupid." That may be a Luddite's version of reality. But in fact, the public now has access to the news gathering process as never before, thanks to social media. The downside is that the once smooth presentation of verified "knowns" may now be a thing of the past.

Instead, media organizations need to do what they do best: make sense of the world. Including the twitterverse. That will require a conscious change in how information is presented: more slowly, with more deliberation and less panic.

For the adrenalin junkies in newsroom, this is bad news. But for the public, this can only be seen as a step closer to giving citizens what they want and what they need.

Is there a media organization willing to try?

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