Source or Channel?

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What an eventful news day. Tiger Woods announced a Friday press conference to share his future plans and apologize for his adulterous behavior. FLOTUS will appear on Fox News with Mike Huckabee. @WhiteHouse tweets will become part of official records and historical archives.

I read these on ubertwitter on my blackberry. I was traveling between meetings most of the day and monitoring news on Twitter and email alerts. News junkies have so many options for consumption. Long gone are the days when the only choices were C-SPAN, CNN, the morning papers or tips from colleagues.

Which got me thinking about a conversation I had earlier in the day about who’s producing news.  Several recent studies have tried to define the evolving and dynamic nature of news generation and dissemination. Bloggers and microbloggers have added a valuable voice to news reporting. And Web 2.0 has indisputably redefined the channels of news dissemination.

Cision and GW research finds that journalists are turning to blogs and social media sites as primary sources in greater numbers. The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism concludes that the majority of news is still generated primarily by traditional media, especially newspapers.

As the Pew researchers aptly note, the questions and answers about the news ecosystem are a moving target. What remains consistent in mainstream and social media are the values and variables of news reporting. Accuracy. Timeliness. Trustworthiness. Authority. Clarity. The sum total of which establishes the credibility of the source regardless of its channel. Social media and mobile devices have exacted “convenience” as an essential element in the credibility equation.

While some may argue that social media are degrading the public’s ability to be a discerning news consumer, I disagree. Consumers may appear fickle, but they are in essence demanding quality. Deliver accurate, timely and interesting news. If they don’t trust the source, they won’t read its blog, online news, tweets, etc.

Two conclusions. The source matters first, and he or she will need to find readers on multiple channels. More critically, PR professionals need to adopt social media channels into their plans. Having a presence is no longer optional.

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