Today’s historic Supreme Court Health Care Ruling and CNN’s epic botching of the ruling tells me quite a bit about how we get our news in the Internet Age and something CNN and other media outlets should know:
We don’t really need you anymore to break the news. We need you to tell us what exactly the news *means.* Please consider this going forward. I’m begging you. Please.
Anyone with an interest in the Affordable Health Care Act ruling was plugged into SCOTUSblog first thing in the morning. SCOTUSblog is a well-respected blog that covers the Supreme Court. That’s what they do. All the time. Every year. Day in. Day out. They are staffed by people who understand the law and understand the court. They are not staffed by anyone who wants to be the first person to break the news on Twitter. Also FYI: Being first to break news on Twitter is kind of a fool’s errand because, even though CNN is CNN, there are at least a million users hoping to beat CNN. It is not simply a three or four way race anymore. It’s a million to two-million way race and your chances of winning are as slim as they are meaningful to anyone who really cares about news.
Today’s ruling weighed in at 193 pages — something that is pretty hard to condense into 140 characters or a very brief blog post. And at this point in time and in the way we retreive and consume news, maybe it’s not the smartest or best use of time. Surely there was somebody with a legal background at CNN who could have been following along with SCOTUSblog’s live analysis of this complicated issue.
This isn’t the first time CNN has dropped the breaking news ball. They missed the Arab Spring. They missed Occupy Wall Street.( If you recall the only thing that finally lured them into lower Manhattan was the promise of a potential Radiohead concert.) And they botched a ruling that may impact the lives of millions of Americans. If CNN were working to make itself obsolete, they couldn’t have come up with a better result.
Newsrooms should be figuring out how to explain news to its readers. This might include hiring people with expertise to provide cogent analysis of the things that are being spewed all over Twitter, Facebook and the Internet. Information comes at a fast and furious pace. The days of Walter Cronkite breaking news to a greatful nation are more than half a century in the past. We can find the news on our own. What we need news organizations for is to tell us what it means and why.