Social Media Fizzles on Balloon Boy Story

sociial media tattooI’m getting tired of the true believers telling me how much better social media is than the mainstream media. This week the new media shamans went through another spasm of self-congratulatory masturbation over a story they picked up from the mainstream media.

“Balloon boy: A study in the new dissemination of news”  was one headline

“Balloon story shows power of social media” was another.

Both stories (which were ironically published by “old” media) marveled at Twitter’s ability to spread information that it was picking up from radio and television. Both stories missed the mark.

I wonder if their authors would have been equally amazed when telegraph wires magically spread news across North America in minutes rather than months.

Twitter, blogs, facebook or the latest shiny thing that falls within the category of new media or social media might have some merit but not as a “powerful new disseminator of news”. Radio, television and newspapers have a lock on that.

Social media is a kind of global water cooler where people can express wonder or indignation at the news of the day. But mainstream media is still creating that news. Original reporting in social media generally boils down to glowing descriptions of products, events, meals or hotel rooms that have been provided to the author for free.

As the balloon boy story was revealed to be a hoax, the social media commentators quickly changed their tune. They stopped crowing about how well they had spread the news and began criticizing the mainstream media for being deceived.

One blog asserted that coverage of the story showed why old media is irrelevant while new media is paving a new path. The change in direction was faster than a NASCAR spin out.

It’ s time for new media/social media acolytes to learn to get along with mainstream media rather than constantly predicting its death. Radio didn’t kill newspapers and TV didn’t kill radio. New media needs a history lession.

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