Process Journalism and Its Twitter Enabler

Michael Arrington recently wrote about an interview he did with NPR about the idea of Process Journalism. In the post, Arrington says “Process Journalism is the posting of a story before it’s fully baked, something the New York Times officially despises, but they do it to.” The Times jab is a reference to a recent article that suggested blogs like TechCrunch posts rumors before a story is verified.

It’s hard to single out any media outlet for being more guilty of rumor mongering than the other these days. While TechCrunch may roll with a story faster than traditional media outlets might, that’s part of the reason blogs like TechCrunch have transformed the way we get our information (and why we love them so much).

I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of process journalism the past couple of days. While running a story before it’s “fully baked” is pretty much the same thing as “half baked”, it’s what we want as readers. We want to know the story now. We used to be happy with getting our news weekly, then daily, then hourly. Now we want up-to-the-minute updates, and that’s what process journalism is all about. We want instant gratification.

The best example of so called process journalism I can think of is CNN. I don’t know about you, but when there’s a breaking news event, I head straight to CNN.com. A couple years ago, I might have parked on CNN’s website hitting the refresh button looking for the latest update. I would have been alerted to the breaking news story via email or SMS, well in advance of any other outlet running the story. That’s not fast enough for me anymore. Or you.

Today, more than 1.8M of us follow CNN’s breaking news stream on Twitter. On Twitter, you get breaking news from CNN as it happens. It’s the closest thing to being there, and the ultimate instant gratification for news-hungry consumers.

And then there is being there. If a plane goes down in the Hudson, and you happen to be standing around, you can now play CNN. This is where citizen journalism meets process journalism meets Twitter journalism. It’s a powerful real-time news punch. CNN’s whole iReport operation is a testament to this power of citizen journalism.

We’ve only begun to see the power of Twitter as a platform for process journalism and citizen journalism. Using citizen journalism and process journalism ideas in conjunction with this evolving medium will breed new and exciting information delivery options for all consumers.

How can you leverage these ideas in your organization? If you’re in the news business, how can you deliver information faster to consumers? I know of dozens of journalists who now tweet links to their stories or posts when they go live. Why not let your Twitter followers know about this in advance? Let us know you’re working on a story, who you’re talking to, what you’ve learned so far and how we – your readers – can get involved in the process. Don’t just use Twitter as a way to drive traffic to your posts, use it as a way to guide your posts. Deliver the news now and embrace the future of journalism. Get out of the past.

Why don’t a lot of journalists do this already? I think they’re scared. I know a few that are afraid their competitors will beat them to the punch. This is a silly argument if you think about it, since their tweets lay claim to the story in the first place. If blogs like TechCrunch waited until a company formally announced a story via a press release, we’d never respect them as the go-to source for tech news. Process journalism is the way to go if you want to build a loyal following today. Add a citizen journalism component and leverage Twitter and you’ll have no problem building a following.

The name of the game is instant gratification. Blogs like TechCrunch and organizations like CNN know this. Do you?

More Resources on Twitter Journalism:

How is your organization using Twitter to satisfy reader demand for instant gratification? Let us know.

(Photo Credit: TooFarNorth)

About Jeremy Porter 214 Articles
Jeremy Porter has been passionate about the intersection of public relations and journalism since studying both Public Relations and Journalism at Utica College of Syracuse University in the late 90s. Porter launched Journalistics in 2009 to share his ideas and insights around both professions and how trends and developments in modern day marketing, communications, and technology impact those working in these fields. Porter also values the traditions and history of both professions and regularly shares his perspective in these areas - and related topics geared toward the next generation of journalism and public relations professionals.

9 Comments

  1. I remember listening to Mike Arrington speaking on the topic of ‘breaking news’ during his keynote at the MESH Conference in Toronto a few years ago. Back then, he didn’t call it process journalism. He explained that it was about getting the news out first ahead of competitors, regardless of whether or not the facts had been verified. Once more details were available, posts would then be changed to reflect accuracy.

    While I like the idea of process journalism, I think the biggest issue with it (especially when the focus is on beating out competitors) is the spread of misinformation. While a site like TechCrunch will go back and edit a post once facts have been verified, chances are good that Joe blogger will not update their own site with the correct details.

    Perhaps that’s why I like your suggestions about using Twitter for process journalism. What a great way to get instantaneous feedback on a story that others may have greater knowledge on. Perhaps this approach will go a long way in ensuring that when a blogger breaks news, they not only beat out competitors, but the information published is also accurate.

  2. I’m not completely convinced that the NYT’s stance on process journalism is all that honest with itself. I mean, there’s something to be said for “fact checking” and authoritative content. After all, it’s what pulls the reader/consumer in and gets them to defer to the content, but as Hunter Thompson put it: “With the possible exception of things like box scores, race results, and stock market tabulations, there is no such thing as Objective Journalism. The phrase itself is a pompous contradiction in terms.”

    I guess what I’m getting at is that any content that’s susceptible to the “news cycle” is largely process journalism. You call the sources whose info you can track down, and then run a story based on whichever ones are actually able (or bother) to call you back with a quote before the filing deadline. And then you move on to the next lead.

    Really, the only stuff that really tries to avoid “process journalism” (and I’m not even saying that it always does so successfully), is books and documentaries, and those are largely not objective. But I think the influence they have despite their subjectivity speaks to how a reader/consumer gages authority: it’s the work, effort, and conviction that goes into it, not the facts.

    After all, where the facts are letter of the law, the truth is the spirit of it.

  3. Yep, you seem to have it right. Imagine, for example, how hard it would actually be to distinguish between what is a “fully baked” story versus “process journalism” in a systematic way. The very distinction is going to be subjectively determined. The key is that, indeed, people want and need dependable information and were all professional traditional journalism to disappear in a puff of smoke people would turn to those bloggers, for instance, that seem to have the most dependable information. That, in turn, would drive others to increase their resources and reliability etc. This is precisely how the world of journalism we know today developed in the first place. There are some great interviews with top journalists about the future of journalism at http://www.ourblook.com/component/option,com_sectionex/Itemid,200076/id,8/view,category/#catid69 which I have found very useful when thinking about these topics.

    This comment was originally posted on Gypsy Bandito

  4. I’m not saying bloggers alone could cover for journalists. Rather, what I might be implying (but I’m not even sure) is that journalists could fulfill their role without there being newspapers in their current traditional structure.

    I guess what I’m getting at is that process journalism can work if its carried out by properly trained journalists.

    This comment was originally posted on Gypsy Bandito

  5. In my 35 years in the business, as everything from columnist to bureau editor at both newspapers and magazines, I have seen too many changes that have caused journalistic integrity to go downhill. Process journalism doesn’t differ greatly from on-spot news, and will be a good thing if it doesn’t hit the same snags as the old “if it bleeds, it leads” philosophy. In the late 1980s, I had the tone of stories changed by bureau chiefs wanting to sell with sensational headlines. In the 1990s, it was more about confusion between commentary and advertorials with hard news. If real journalists with integrity and training do the posts, we might be OK. But if untrained hands get in the mix, and believe me, they will, and the mistakes aren’t picked up and changed, the misinformation could lead to tragedy. It’s bad enough much of media isn’t respected now. Whatever we do, we must be cautious not to make that situation worse.

2 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. Process Journalism — CT Moore Gypsy Bandito
  2. Reporting the News: If You Ain't First, You're Last

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*