Once again Twitter has beat traditional media in spreading the news. At it’s peak, Michael Jackson related messages were spreading at the rate of 5,000 per minute.Here’s how it went down:
2:44pm TMZ releases the news that Michael Jackson died – possibly from a self administered overdose of Demerol according to some reports.
2:51pm The LA Times confirms through it’s own sources that he has died.
3:43pm CNN updated their website to say he was in a coma.
4:25pm CNN finally reports it as fact that Michael Jackson has died after the coroner releases their official statement announcing it.
It was not surprising that most of the “major” news outlets wouldn’t credit TMZ despite their ability to break news. It has the “stench of tabloid” on them which makes the respectable news outlets shun it. However, TMZ and CNN share the same corporate parent so you would have thought CNN might at least give them a nod.
Reflecting back not so long ago when it took CNN 3 days to acknowledge that there was rioting in Iran you would think they might have taken the impetus to move a little quicker on this story. Is it just the sign of the times that the old giants of media can’t move any quicker?
Let’s take another look at the twitter wave, though. Mixed in with the tweets of Michael Jackson’s death were rumors of Jeff Goldblum and Patrick Swayze. Neither one of those celebrity deaths but they were getting lots of retweets in the mix of Michael Jackson tribute tweets. A good number of those false reports were links to a fake news generator site with ties to FakeAWish.
The same factors that make Twitter so powerful are the same factors that make it so unreliable. Nobody was checking the source of the news, just retweeting it. Many times I tried to pull up either of the links that were being cited as the source of the news about these fake deaths and was not able to pull up the pages.
Does that make Twitter bad or unreliable? No, not really. It’s not more unreliable then when a buddy tells you something that he has heard and you pass it on to the next person. It’s up to you to judge how much you want to believe him. You’re not very likely to make him whip out his laptop and tell him to cite his sources.
That said, it would be better if, before you repeat something, you check for yourself and find out if it’s true. Just like you should check the information you receive in an email forward before you forward it to 10 people and enjoy good feelings and massive amounts of luck all day.
So, in summary, Twitter still rocks. Check sources before you believe what you read. Don’t forward spam. And CNN still sucks.