Social media over the last few years has brought up the question of whether it’s more important to be first or right. Obviously, everyone wants to be both, but the solid line that once defined American journalism has been crossed too many times since the great Twitter boom of 2009. Today, being wrong first can get you more attention than being right second.
Outside of tech geeks and the LA/NY entertainment scene, who had really heard of What’s Trending before yesterday? Shira Lazar has enjoyed a distinct level of fame, but the show was still in the early stages of growth. Now, it’s the buzz of the internet because of a handful of Tweets about Steve Jobs.
That the Tweets were wrong and irresponsible are not in question. Whether it was an unpaid intern, a producer, a social media guru, or Shira Lazar herself who sent out the Tweet is not an issue. It happened. It was corrected. Apologies were made. It’s time to move on with more care given to the truth, right?
Well, not exactly. There will be no “moving on” with CBS. They reacted swiftly and decisively, releasing the show and pulling down every bit of content (most of which was absolutely excellent IMHO) from their sites. Their journalistic standards were breached and their reputation is getting attacked, so they did what they thought they had to do.
Were they right? Normally in poll questions I refrain from putting in my input until the question has been answered fully, but here I cannot resist. Doctors are taught that when a knife is stuck into someone, you don’t react by pulling it out immediately. You can do more harm than good.
To me, that’s exactly what they did. They took a knife to the shoulder and reacted poorly, trying to obliterate any attachment to those evil souls who Tweeted out uncorroborated information. By pulling out the knife, they caused more harm. Here’s what they should have done:
- Issue an apology, noting that What’s Trending is an independent partner that does not fall under the same journalistic scrutiny as their standard news outlets.
- Defend What’s Trending as a cutting-edge, progressive show that gets it right 99% of the time. A mistake was made, and CBS has discussed with the producers of What’s Trending about the importance of being correct before being first.
- Behind the scenes, they should have scolded the heck out of everyone they could get on the phone at What’s Trending, warning that any further mistakes of this caliber cannot be tolerated.
- Turn it into something good. They could have done a show about Steve Jobs, perhaps highlighting his favorite charities or exploring his contributions with an in-depth video (produced by What’s Trending, of course).
- Move on.
The story should have died this morning. We should no longer be talking about it. Instead, we’re now discussing the bigger story. They took a minor infraction on Twitter and demonstrated something about their company, that they might want to exist in the 21st century as a player that can draw in Generation Y through hot shows like Lazar’s, but their still too obtuse in their thinking to truly make that leap.
“Meh, we tried to be cool, but we got burnt by those darn What’s Trending kids, so we’re going to stick with what works, CSI and slow news.”
Okay. My rant is done. Please weigh in. Am I wrong? Are they right?