Since the invention of the newspaper, media outlets have always competed to be first. Being first to break a story is everything, as was so well dramatized in the play and then movie “Front Page.”
Today, news organizations compete to be first to break a story, and when they do, they continually remind their readers, viewers or listeners that they were first. Somehow being first means they know more about the story or they are more on the ball than their competitors.
But a major story in Los Angeles this week took the cake.
The city awoke to a huge fire of an apartment complex under construction in downtown Los Angeles. It is (or was) a massive and controversial real estate development. When the fire was knocked out, the Los Angeles Fire Department said they suspected arson and were investigating.
Later in the day, the fire chief held an update news conference to inform the public what he knew. It wasn’t much, but he wanted people to know they had suspicions while investigators were combing through the ashes.
What I found fascinating is how the Los Angeles Times covered the news conference. Traditionally, reporters show up, take notes, then return to their desk to write the story. TV and radio reporters would report from the scene after it was over.
However, in today’s “get it first” news cycle, the way The Times covered the news conference was for two Times’ reporters to tweet one liner updates while the news conference was going on. The Times published a series of tweets along with some pictures of the scene. The only thing faster than that would have been to cover the news conference live on TV or radio, which some may have done.
For a newspaper to disseminate one line updates via Twitter, I guess is ingenious. But there isn’t a whole lot one can say in one sentence — even a series of disjointed sentences. But on the other hand, The Times can claim they were first, at least among newspapers.
Something tells me this is not an isolated incident and will be used more and more. Twitter may become our new news source with newspapers just write the wrap up.