When News Goes Totally Digital, How Do You Create Trust?
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Why was ABC so interested in the online social networks? "If you're ABC News, your content can spread virally through all these friend networks," Steve Outing, an interactive media columnist for Editor & Publisher magazine, explained to the New York Times . Slavin says, "In terms of the election, it gave us another way to communicate and to generate interest and questions for town halls. Sure, we were looking for ways to connect with their audience of young people. We had already looked at YouTube - then they did a debate with CNN and got very hot." (YouTube's partnership with CNN for two debates during the primary season was perhaps the most high-profile emerging media/legacy media partnership during the 2008 presidential election cycle. Users were able to upload video questions for the candidates, which were then vetted by YouTube and CNN and played during the debates. CNN came under fire during one debate, however, for unknowingly allowing a retired brigadier general who served on an advisory committee to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton to ask the candidates about gay men and lesbians in the military. The retired general had uploaded his question via YouTube.)
Paul Slavin says ABC News would "love to work with Facebook more," and that he is "looking to re-engage and expand the relationship." He still finds YouTube interesting, but "is not sure what we would get out of the relationship, since there is no money to be made — maybe marketing?" In conclusion, he notes, "Everybody is grappling with this now. This is the most interesting time I've ever experienced in news business. There's such an explosion of new technology that my main problem is that there are simply not enough hours in the day to deal with it all. Everyone is talking to everyone else, and we're all trying to figure this out."
Mark Lukasiewicz is another top network news executive who is grappling with the related issues of legacy media, emerging media and trust. Lukasiewicz, vice president for digital media at NBC News, takes issue with some of what Schmidt and Slavin say. "The Internet is a conveyor belt for information, not a repository of it," Lukasiewicz begins. "You could call the telephone system a cesspool of misinformation as well! Let's not blame the messenger. The Net is no more of a cesspool than life in general.
"The question is: What tools do people have to determine what is true?'" Lukasiewicz says. "In previous times, the medium itself conveyed some of that trust relationship. But now, since so much information comes through this new device of the Internet, it's become a lot harder to make those distinctions. Branding is part of what's necessary," he believes, "But the big challenge for mainstream media like us is that people today are less trusting of news brands — the war in Iraq had a great deal to do with that — and now this new ability of people to find and share information on their own feeds into that."
Lukasiewicz says that other, fundamental changes are also shaking the firmament of the legacy media. "After all, what conveys authority?" he asks. " That is what is changing… Today, for us in the mainstream media, being a singular provider — the one brand , offering everything it and only it produces — is actually a negative. People want to see a multiplicity of sources; they want you to be comprehensive. So if we link out, and offer content other than our own — even that of our competitors — it still enhances our own brand in the eyes of the consumer.