Once upon a time – and not so long ago – if a story broke at (say) 10pm, it would be in the morning paper next day. When I worked as a sub-editor on the Western Mail in the early 80s, pages could be changed as late as 1 or 2 in the morning (or even later in emergencies) and readers would have them on their breakfast table a few hours later. If for any reason the morning paper missed it, the story would certainly make the South Wales Echo (which hit the streets at about mid-day).
When I tipped off the Western Mail about a story involving the pianist Lang Lang on Sunday night, it didn’t appear in the paper until Tuesday morning and – interestingly – appeared in exactly the same form in the South Wales Echo at the same time. Which seems to suggest that phoning the newsdesk of a daily paper is not the way to get a story out.
It’s time for me to take Twitter seriously. If I had tweeted at 10pm on Sunday, any followers I was fortunate enough to have would have seen the news immediately – and could have forwarded it to others by re-tweeting. As my learned colleague Rob Campbell points out, those who heard the news could also have joined in the investigation of what was going on – linking to a wider pool of knowledge and experience.
If a paper – in Cardiff or even London – had picked up the tweets, they could follow up the story. But that’s exactly what they would have been doing – following.
This episode has brought home to me just how far the news media have changed in my own professional lifetime and just how far the old print media have been left behind. Only by adding value to a story already in circulation can they hope to offer anything their readers would want to pay for. And in this case, the paper added nothing to what I could have tweeted 36 hours before they passed the news on.
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