The debate will rage for eons. As soon as ‘new media’ becomes ‘standard media’, something ‘new-er’ will appear making it ‘old media’. For now, the debate is about the effectiveness of Twitter/Facebook/YouTube/Quora/SomethingElse and how they do/do not affect or alter the current traditional media and the way we consume it. ‘Old media’ snobs look down at anyone within their ranks that involves themselves in these new mediums, claiming they’re lazy. The new kids (& old ones too!) that have embraced social media are finding it helps them with their sourcing and development of stories.

As more and more politicians, companies and services start taking social media channels seriously, more and more information is being delivered with authority online. A perfect example of this is how well the Qld Police Service media unit & the Brisbane City Council have been delivering information and help to the people of Brisbane during the January floods of 2011. Their timely updates and authoritative information has meant that avid followers can pass on correct/mythbusting information to the many who’ve been affected by the flooding and have limited communications.

It’s a stark contrast to this segment, aired late in the evening of 13 January – the day the waters peaked and started to fall in the Brisbane floods:

Some observations:

  1. Tommy Tudehope knows what he is talking about, and he’s trying to cram as much factual information into the segment as possible. Likely because he knows it will be short.
  2. Rebecca Maddern has *no* idea what questions she’s asking – or she’s very fatigued due to extended periods on air and this is impacting her ability to be in any way coherent.
  3. There is no third thing.
  4. It started on a sensationalistic yet accurate account of what has been happening, without any chance to rectify it or mention that it had been shut down as a rumour almost as soon as it sprung up.
  5. There was no mention of either of the above official services that have been delivering timely corrections to misinformation like what was mentioned.
  6. The producer responsible for this segment clearly had 90 seconds to fill and thought this would do.

You gotta feel for Tom in this “interview”. He’s there to try to help right the sinking “social media is evil – don’t trust it” ship, and he’s given one and a half questions with which to do so. He gets there, but only just.

As more and more presenters, entertainers, journalists and TV shows sign up to Twitter (and, to a lesser degree, Facebook) with plans to embrace and/or milk it, the networks need to either: take responsibility and work with them – even provide them with a brief – so that they start to understand some of what it can do to help them; or cut them loose and make no expectation of them to do anything with it, and ultimately live as long as they can via ‘old media’.

Given what we’ve seen as far as crowd-sourcing of pictures and video from the Queensland flood disaster, it strikes me that those that do not embrace and engage within these new mediums now will very quickly find themselves going the way of the wax cylinder or Morse code. I’m not just talking about producers or publicists doing the social media thing oin their behalf, either. Engaging with their viewers, politicians, enterprises and potential story sources will not only save them time (the facts still must be checked) but also deliver them a fan base/viewership/allegiances long since vanished from modern television.