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Who Do You Trust: Journalists, Bloggers, Social Media?

My notes and thoughts from the SXSW 2012 panel: Vetting In The Age of Social; Who Do You Trust?

It was a provocative question addressed by the SXSW 2012 panel sponsored by PR Newswire:  When it comes to news and information, “Who do you trust?”

Tom Miale of PR Newswire/MultiVu brought together an interesting panel to tackle this discussion.

As brands, we have to understand what our audience trusts, so I was sitting front-and-center taking notes.

Shelli Whitehurst, aka @CodeNameMax, who calls herself an information junkie says she reads sources she likes before she reads ‘official’ news sources. She loves what bloggers have to say. She wants to read the opinions of real people.

“By the time the news covers it its just verifying rather than vetting,” stated Shelli, with her beautiful Australian accent.

Everyone on the panel admitted to starting most days looking at their smart-phones while still in bed and checking either the news organizations they work for or Twitter.

So what is the role of media in a world where the first place so many of us go to for news is not traditional or ‘official’ news sources.

At another panel a day earlier, Richard ‘Koci’ Hernandez said that he heard of Osama Bin Laden’s death on Instagram. “Others saw it first on Twitter [where the story broke] because that is where they are. I’m on Instagram” he said, “and so is CNN iReport. So I heard about it there.”

Is the role of media now just to vet after the fact?

Alicia Stewart said at CNN they would rather be right than be first, and she does make a very good point. In the case of Bin Laden’s death the citizen journalist was correct.

But breaking Twitter news is not always right.

Michael Pranikoff of PR Newswire said people just don’t trust the media today, and there’s some truth to that.

Remember Dan Rather? He represented an official source, but one mistake of not verifying information before broadcasting it brought to center stage the fact that even official news sources sometimes get it wrong.

“You can say whatever you want, but it’s my job as a journalist is to vet the sources/story,” chimed Alicia Stewart.

Yes, but that takes time. We live in a world of real-time expectations.

“Quality scales and good journalism always rises to the top,” said Tony Uphoff. “We’re not going to fall back into the search/RSS model. People want to hear what others opinions are.”

But can we tell what quality journalism is? And do enough of us care?

I sure hope so. I hope we are not loosing sight of strong reporting which digs deep in to matters that affect our lives.

In the end I suppose we the audience now carry a greater weight in the vetting process. We have to decide who and what we trust more carefully than ever before, because information is reaching us via more avenues than ever before.

I suppose I continue to trust that CNN and other more traditional news organizations will do the homework for me, the fact checking. But I’m still going to go to Twitter at the first whisper of anything because repeatedly I find that breaking news is being talked about on Twitter minutes before anything appears on any ‘official’ news site.

So now the question goes to you. Who do you trust?

Victoria Harres is Director of Audience Development for PR Newswire and the lead voice on @PRNewswire.

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