Why People Think They Are Lying
Network news ratings are decreasing, and TV news credibility has reached an all time low. The press blames the Internet for this demise. I’m not so sure about that. It may be more related to how people process the news than it is how people access the news.
In other words, I don’t think it’s because the networks are doing a bad job, or that all things human are sitting in front of computer screen searching out news information. No. I believe it is more important to think about how an average person decides whether something is real or fake, credible or invented, live or edited, natural or rehearsed, then it is to worry about where they get their news from. And I think conventional news organizations are missing this point and worrying about the wrong things.
In fact, I believe network and local news organizations could be actively taking advantage of these new information processing mechanisms and building them directly into their daily news strategies. First let’s consider the current modes of news operation and what actually is taking place in the minds of consumers.
Two Models of News Presentation and Information Processing
In order to understand the differences which have occurred in news information processing, let’s begin with the current news model. Here are the key elements of the network operation.
- Gatekeepers of information make closed door decisions about what is newsworthy and what is not.
- Information is compiled, edited, and disseminated in discrete news segments and sound bites.
- News is presented at specific times during the day and night.
- Broadcast newscasts are slick, professional, and designed to impress both the viewer and competitive stations.
Now here is the new media information processing model.
- Information is crowd sourced to the masses in order to produce user-generated content from thousands of street level reporters.
- Audience members edit information according to their own user profiles dictated by personal preferences, interests and needs. The most popular stories are dictated by users and not gatekeepers.
- Information is continuously updated and available 24 hours a day.
- Newscasts have a “hand held” grainy live feel to them. Real life takes the place of repackaged and edited events.
Implications for the Future
Whether we like it or even acknowledge it, a new form of information reality is the new benchmark of news credibility. Oddly enough, the more slick the presentation, the lower the credibility. There is a reason why people sit in front of a televised car chase for hours. There is a reason why TMZ and other reality based gossip news outlets are flourishing. People want to see it for themselves. Uncut, unedited, and live. Raw and real. While some are building this kind of production reality into their news organizations, others are busy building new set designs.
Network news operations actually have the unique opportunity to create a totally live environment, and generate a feeling that they are EVERYWHERE. I would think of it as their own version of Google Earth. The vision would be one of a news operation that allows the viewer to see, experience, and go anywhere in the world to get a news actuality any time of the day. This would mandate two important strategic decisions.
The first is to believe that user-generated content is not necessarily useless generated content. That requires a huge paradigm shift at most news gathering operations. We don’t have a staff of just 20 reporters; we have a community of millions of reporters. The second strategic decision is to believe that media convergence requires convergence not only between the media and the audience, but also between ALL things media.
In other words, TV outlets would be required to cross-platform radio, print, and of course the Internet, in order to provide a ubiquitous entry point into their interactive second-by-second version of their “Google Earth” news operation. This becomes a virtual reality of all things news in your community.
So watch the news tonight. Tell me if you get the feeling of user interactivity, global convergence with all other media forms, and a viewer dictated democracy of content and subject matter. Or instead, do you get a slick TV presentation that is actually an updated version of a network news format that Huntley and Brinkley invented in the early 1960’s?
The battleship needs to be turned around. That may take some time, but I don’t think becoming obsolete is an option. The reality has changed. The media isn’t the message. The viewers, listeners, and readers are the message.