Sunday, June 14, 2009

Let's delve into Twitter's #CNNfail on Iran

Since sometime yesterday, post after post on Twitter has contained the hashtag "CNNfail," aimed at the network's coverage, or lack of, of the election in Iran. I don't know exactly when it started, but I do know that it continued overnight and into today. Let's examine the hypothesis:

1. There was a huge election in Iran, the outcome of which is important to Iranians (obviously) and America's future relationship with the country.
2. The outcome is sketchy. Accusations of a rigged election, a surprising result, self-declared winners, overall general conflict.
3. Because of the outcome and sketchiness surrounding it, people in Iran, particularly Moussavi supporters, have taken to the streets in protest.
4. In the midst of all this, multiple people on sites like Twitter, most of them in Iran, say that Iranians are without cell phones and/or Internet, don't have access to sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and are having trouble getting information out. (Though some obviously managed somehow, if these accounts on Twitter are true.)

5. People in America want to know what's going on. They turned on CNN (apparently), and did not see coverage of Iran.

6. CNN failed.

I'm pretty sure that about sums it up; I haven't had time to read every single #CNNfail post or #Iranelection. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

When I jumped into this discussion last night, it was around 1 a.m. EST. On a Saturday night, no less. Not a time when any of the three major cable news networks usually have live coverage of anything. But here are all these people, pissed off at CNN, because CNN doesn't have live coverage of Iran. No one seems to be asking why CNN isn't covering Iran that late at night on a Saturday; they just assume either CNN doesn't think it's important enough, or they give a reason of "It doesn't matter, it's CNN's job to report the news."

Well, yes, it is CNN's job to report the news. And they have; it's not like they completely ignored Iran all day yesterday (I know, because I watched during the day). It's also CNN's job to make money. News is, always has been, and always will be, a business first. If you can't make money, bye-bye news outlet. Maybe CNN didn't find it cost-effective to have the staff there for live coverage. Maybe it's beyond that and they simply don't have the money to have live coverage at that time of night. Maybe CNN itself was having problems getting accurate information from Iran and didn't want to, or couldn't, go on air with no concrete information. Maybe there were technical problems. Maybe, just maybe, CNN didn't think enough people were up watching CNN at 2 a.m. on Saturday night who were also interested in the Iran elections. Just because so many people on Twitter are intensely following the story doesn't mean the rest of the country is in the same way. Take a look at what the most popular stories were on around 2 a.m. last night:

If Iran were as important to everyone else as it is to people following the story on Twitter, wouldn't it be the most popular story on too?

I've been hearing for a good year now (okay, more than that) that the newspaper industry is dying. No need for a print newspaper anymore, everything can be online. If newspapers can't figure out an online business model to support themselves, see ya later. And that's all true, to some extent. When people raise the question of "how will you get your news when there aren't any newspapers?" the answer is always "umm, like, the Internet? Duh!" I have never heard anyone answer that with "umm, like, CNN? Duh!" So let's go along with the premise that CNN did fail in its coverage of Iran yesterday/last night. Big deal. Where's the Internet coverage of Iran? That's the future of journalism, right? Why are you suddenly so upset with CNN? Why aren't you upset with "the Internet" for not providing you the coverage you seek? Where's the outrage toward Fox News and/or MSNBC? After all, Fox News has many more viewers than CNN does. Where are all these online-only journalists that everyone seems to think will cover every story everywhere? Surely CNN isn't expected to be your only source of news. Isn't that what's so great about the Internet, you can get all kinds news from all kinds of sources?

I don't understand what all the complaining is about. (I also don't really watch CNN, for what that's worth.) If CNN failed you, here's a suggestion: don't watch it. Don't rely on it for your news. Turn somewhere else. Either that, or re-think what you want out of traditional media in this country, and support the outlets that provide it. And think about what the future of journalism as a whole could look like soon, because you may have just gotten a preview of it last night.

UPDATE: Now people are complaining that CNN isn't covering what's going on in Peru. Example:
"While we are all focused on Iran there is still a massacre happening in Peru too, why no news on this CNN? #cnnfail"

Yeah CNN, why aren't you covering Peru? While we're at it, why aren't you simultaneously covering every single story I want to see on your network, and can you at least have the courtesy of reading my mind to know what I'm going to want to see before it's even news? Geez.


DARG said...

Or watch BBC.... ^^

bowler said...

Twitter is good for offering an instant, worldwide reach... but in cases like this it becomes a big virtual bandwagon

DARG said...

eh, everything on the net is a bandwagon. blogspot, google search, bing, facebook, everything has its ups and downs. A non bandwagon website or service is one that doesnt make income from traffic.

Rosie said...

Good point about the bandwagon aspect of Twitter. What if they did away with "trending topics"? Would take away a decent chunk of that mentality. (I especially can't stand people who post sentences containing every hashtag that's trending at the moment.)


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