Asahi.com has what looks to be an exclusive interview with Tony Maddox, executive vice president and managing director of CNN International, the news agency that received a large amount of criticism for its coverage of the political unrest in Bangkok earlier this year.
One question and response catches the eye with regard to these recent events in Thailand.
Q: You’re using Social Media and user-generated media to collect news sources from all over the world, like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. But how can you control the quality of news reliability, copyrights, privacy, and image rights in Social Media?
A: That’s a challenge for everyone. I think Social Media and first-person storytelling is a key component of how we want to tell key stories nowadays. CNN was an early mover in this area with CNN iReport which has become a huge success and plays an important role in our news gathering.
If you’ve got people who were involved in a first-person experience, maybe even video on a cellphone … that’s a unique insight you can get to a story. You have to combine that with good storytelling from your reporters as well.
It’s very important to “signpost” this to the audience, make it clear what it is, that it’s first-person content and what it’s not. It’s not fully checked, CNN reportage, and there is a difference, but incorporated in your news gathering in that way. It has a real role to play.
The general comments from Maddox are spot on, social media reporting from the field is useful but lacking in context and may be subject to individual bias, wittingly or unwittingly.
However, the mention of iReport being “a huge success” got my attention as the service had a major brush with controversy in Thailand when it reported (here and here) that images used in The Nation and Bangkok Post had been doctored. The page subsequently blocked by some ISPs and many chalked the incidents up as more ‘inappropriate’ reporting from CNN.
The concept of iReport is along the right lines, but with many correspondents already using Twitter, YouTube and Facebook it is an extra layer for news seekers to visit when many will simply use social networks to stay updated and check the news the final cut of the news. iReport, to me, is an interesting but difficult to market element for end-users, though I appreciate it is a new platform with monetisation and ‘new dimension’ potential for CNN.
I believe it is a little too early to call it a success, but it will be interest to watch its progress, particularly in real-time events similar to those that occurred in Bangkok
**Shameless plug, to see how Bangkok journalists use social media platforms themselves read this post interviewing half of dozen of the city’s highest profile hacks.