I Want to Know … Right Now!!

by Dan Ward

Late last week, I posted a tweet that generated some debate … after reading tweet after tweet proclaiming the L.A. Times and other traditional news media irrelevant because “celebrity gossip” outlet TMZ broke the Michael Jackson story, I said this:  “Enough … getting ‘scooped’ on MJ doesn’t make newspapers irrelevant. Role isn’t to be 1st, but to provide in-depth reporting & b’ground.

My point wasn’t to defend newspapers; they ARE less relevant today than 5 or 10 years ago.  But the problem isn’t just that they are getting scooped.  It’s that in their rush to join the online revolution (which they admittedly neglected for far too long), they’ve forgotten what has always made them different … their ability to provide depth and background to a story that you just can’t get from a 100-word blog entry or a 30-second TV news clip.

It’s this rush to feed information to a public expecting immediate gratification that leads to headlines like this, from none other than Time magazine: “What Killed Michael? What the Autopsy Could Reveal.”  The autopsy could reveal a million things … drug overdose, undiagnosed disease, even a moonwalking accident.  Maybe instead of competing in the speculation game, Time should report on what the autopsy actually does reveal.

TMZ is a fun read, and should be commended for its amazing wealth of sources and ability to move quickly.  But it also makes statements like this, which I hope to never see in Time: “And this is interesting … Katherine Jackson apparently doesn’t know Prince Michael’s date of birth. Yesterday, in the guardianship papers, she listed his DOB as 1/21/02. The birth certificate says he was born on 2/21/02, one month later.”

Time and the Times both got scooped on that one, but perhaps they chalked up the typo to a simple mistake by a woman grieving the tragic loss of her son.  Being first isn’t the same as being right.

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