Tuesday, November 10, 2009

OK, then what happened?

In the mix of finger pointing about irresponsible bloggers and posts that only fed page views because of shock value, I've noticed that mainsteam media outlets have been just as guilty.

Case in point is a video clip from the front page of this morning's Chicago Tribune which takes you to the video of a woman falling in front of a train in Boston. The link simply says: "Raw video: Woman falls in front of oncoming train in Boston" and drops you off here without any background or follow up on the incident.

For any sort of in depth reporting, you'll need to surf to the Boston Globe web site, hunt around a bit and find a story about the train's conductor, who has been honored for stopping the train in time.

I have a problem with this setup. Primarily, with the mainstream media dismissing bloggers and smaller sites for not doing enough research or reporting and then turning around and doing something like this.

It's not OK to stamp a video as "Raw Video" and failing to provide any background whatsoever. When the link has more information (such as the location) than the video page, that's a major problem with the system.

I will be the first to admit that blogs as a whole are still rough around the edges and for a quick fix, many people will just click away to see a woman fall in front of a speeding train. Without any background, this is a little sketchy for my tastes as it's hard to defend posting something like that as newsworthy without any actual news attached.

When we hit a point that a major metropolitan newspaper is simply tossing out links without any background - and especially something as strangely compelling as this - it's time to consider where the web product went astray.

Especially in a city like Chicago, where the El plays such a major role in most people's daily lives, a video like this will certainly draw attention. However, without any sort of context it's a pretty blatant grab for eyeballs and does a lot of harm to any newspaper's only real commodity - the trust it has from its readers. When they start throwing up odd, macabre links like this without any deeper meaning, it gets hard and harder to justify that trust.

(Image from Boston.com)