JournalismSocial Media

Process Journalism and Its Twitter Enabler

Michael Arrington recently wrote about an interview he did with NPR about the idea of Process Journalism. In the post, Arrington says “Process Journalism is the posting of a story before it’s fully baked, something the New York Times officially despises, but they do it too.” The Times jab is a reference to a recent article that suggested blogs like TechCrunch posts rumors before a story is verified.

It’s hard to single out any media outlet for being more guilty of rumor-mongering than the other these days. While TechCrunch may roll with a story faster than traditional media outlets might, that’s part of the reason blogs like TechCrunch have transformed the way we get our information (and why we love them so much).

I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of process journalism the past couple of days. While running a story before it’s “fully baked” is pretty much the same thing as “half baked”, it’s what we want as readers. We want to know the story now. We used to be happy with getting our newsweekly, then daily, then hourly. Now we want up-to-the-minute updates, and that’s what process journalism is all about. We want instant gratification.

The best example of so-called process journalism I can think of is CNN. I don’t know about you, but when there’s a breaking news event, I head straight to CNN.com. A couple of years ago, I might have parked on CNN’s website hitting the refresh button looking for the latest update. I would have been alerted to the breaking news story via email or SMS, well in advance of any other outlet running the story. That’s not fast enough for me anymore. Or you.

Today, more than 1.8M of us follow CNN’s breaking news stream on Twitter. On Twitter, you get breaking news from CNN as it happens. It’s the closest thing to being there, and the ultimate instant gratification for news-hungry consumers.

And then there is being there. If a plane goes down in the Hudson, and you happen to be standing around, you can now play CNN. This is where citizen journalism meets process journalism meets Twitter journalism. It’s a powerful real-time news punch. CNN’s whole iReport operation is a testament to this power of citizen journalism.

We’ve only begun to see the power of Twitter as a platform for process journalism and citizen journalism. Using citizen journalism and process journalism ideas in conjunction with this evolving medium will breed new and exciting information delivery options for all consumers.

How can you leverage these ideas in your organization? If you’re in the news business, how can you deliver information faster to consumers? I know of dozens of journalists who now tweet links to their stories or posts when they go live. Why not let your Twitter followers know about this in advance? Let us know you’re working on a story, who you’re talking to, what you’ve learned so far and how we – your readers – can get involved in the process. Don’t just use Twitter as a way to drive traffic to your posts, use it as a way to guide your posts. Deliver the news now and embrace the future of journalism. Get out of the past.

Why don’t a lot of journalists do this already? I think they’re scared. I know a few that are afraid their competitors will beat them to the punch. This is a silly argument if you think about it since their tweets lay claim to the story in the first place. If blogs like TechCrunch waited until a company formally announced a story via a press release, we’d never respect them as the go-to source for tech news. Process journalism is the way to go if you want to build a loyal following today. Add a citizen journalism component and leverage Twitter and you’ll have no problem building a following.

The name of the game is instant gratification. Blogs like TechCrunch and organizations like CNN know this. Do you?

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