A new Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism paper (free pdf) by BBC newsreader Nik Gowing discusses the challenges of information control in the era of news 24 and citizen journalism.
He's right. 'In a crisis there is a relentless and unforgiving trend towards an ever greater information transparency.' He characterises the dilemmas facing institutions in the F3 formula:
- Should they be first to enter the information space?
- How fast should they do it?
- How flawed might their remarks and first positions turn out to be?
This formula leads to some sound recommendations on crisis communications and Gowing addresses the waves of attention on issues triggered traditional news outlets and the 'civilian surge' of real-time information.
His discussion is based on major international news stories that make headlines on BBC News 24. But everyone can learn from these lessons and he's clearly writing with public relations and corporate communications people in mind.
Among those who have much to learn are those dismissing the so-called mainstream media and talking up social media phenomena such as YouTube and Twitter. They will learn that the era of 'ambient news' is as old as the radio, but accelerated with rolling television news from the 1980s onwards. The relationship between mainstream and social media is clearly symbiotic rather than exclusive (either-or).