When trusted guides don’t guide

Canyon Country Fire by respres

Canyon County Fire by respres on Flickr, Creative Commons, Some Rights Reserved

I was looking through my feeds and found this on Mashable: This Disaster Will Be Twitterized. Mark Hopkins recalls how more than 10 years ago, he aggregated all of the coverage of the Oklahoma City bombing on his Angelfire page. His page was listed prominently on the Yahoo page showing coverage of the tragedy.

Mark fast-forwarded to the present day and watched the California wildfires unfold in Flickr, Twitter and a number of other Web 2.0 sites. And he makes this observation:

Any news channel or show on the TV is prominently featuring this disaster in varying degrees of detail, but if you reside outside of Southern California, what exactly are you going to learn from the national news reports that will be useful to you in a situation like this? CNN isn’t going to point you to the ten mile long Google Map mashup that shows where the fires are. MSNBC isn’t going to aggregate the links for you.

The question for any news organisation is why not? This isn’t rocket science. There are no technical hurdles to doing this if you have even a half-way decent CMS, and it’s dead easy if you’ve got some blogging software. If part of news organisations’ job is to be a trusted guide, why are so many blind to the aggregating this content and helping their audience navigate it?

Chris Vallance and Rhod Sharp had a couple of great interviews on the BBC’s Pods and Blogs last night. (Note: I used to help Chris and Rhod with the programme, and Chris will be the best man at my wedding.) But I’m still baffled why web aggregation during breaking news with follow up interviews still are the exception not the norm. There are all of these people living through a news event making themselves known through blog posts, photo sharing sites, social networking sites and more, and yet we’re still telling the story through wire copy, agency video and stills. It’s yet another missed opportunity by doing what we do the same way we’ve always done it. Editorial innovation can happen while meeting the demands of breaking news.

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