Image via WikipediaMany journalists working for 'traditional' or 'mainstream' media have been arguing about social media, particularly Twitter and its lack of dept, context, analysis or comment. There's also an argument that social media platforms (blogs, Twitterings, Wikis, Forums) don't necessarily derive the truth in quite the balanced and reliable way as a trained journalist.
There's a counterpoint to that, with respected journalists taking to online like whale sharks to aquariums and aiming to apply the (admittedly somewhat idealistic) standards of journalism to that environment. I'd argue it's easier for journalists to do that - and do it well - because online doesn't put the same pressures of proprietorial, commercial and reputational restrictions on the practice of the profession as 'traditional' media such as newspapers do.
The argument that we need journalism to filter the raw content out there is a seductive one, but it sadly flies in the face of increasing evidence that the filters are broken - and that we are actually happier filtering the stuff we are interested in ourselves. That's doesn't necessarily mean we want to filter everything ourselves, just the stuff we're interested in. And the more interested we become, the more it becomes apparent that the filters aren't quite what they're claiming to be.
Here's a great example. Emirates Business 24x7 today reports that 'Emiratis go online against Harvey Nichols'. Now, for those of you wot doesn't know, UK top-end retailer Harvey Nichols has been accused of putting a t-shirt on sale that depicts a bulldog standing on a UAE flag.
This is not generally considered to be a clever thing to do - in fact, whoever authorised putting the damn thing on sale should be considered dangerously incompetent and, at the least, keel-hauled.
"Emiratis have organised a campaign on Facebook and Twitter to boycott Harvey Nichols in response to an offensive T-shirts for which they were also pulled up by the authorities." trumpets EmBiz24x7, albeit in an unconscious echo of Churchill's famous "This is the sort of English up with which I will not put"
The story is clear, no? There's a significant grassroots movement of furious Emiratis against the retailer. Except the story, suspiciously, doesn't quantify 'the movement'.
In fact, when we look beyond the headline, and the story underneath it, EmBiz24x7's story is stood up on a Facebook group of 21 members with 2 wall posts. I can't find any evidence of a concerted campaign on Twitter, searching for Harvey, Harvey Nichols and HarveyNichols - and there are no Tweets bunched under #HarveyNichols, while the #UAE hashtag features no Harvey Nicks but quite a bit of Etisalat's BlackBerry PR triumph.
In fact, the reader is not given the information to make up his/her own mind about the relevance, force or weight of this online campaign. Given access to that information (for instance, the data I have surfaced in this post) we'd all file the story (wouldn't we?) under 'non story why are you wasting my time with this?' - the very filtering that is supposed to be taking place on our behalf, no?
Tags: Shoot. Foot. Self. Media.