When New and Old Media Collide

If you ever wanted to illustrate the differences between the Web and other media platforms, then this past week of ground-breaking rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court could provide all the contrasts you need. If like me you spend most of the day connected to the Internet, then it was almost impossible to avoid being bombarded with headlines and commentary, not just from Washington D.C. but from all over the world.

As a result, prime time TV shows covering the day’s events often seemed like old news. And the morning newspapers seemed even more out-of-date, as our breakfast reading of the previous day’s happenings was interrupted by real time updates from our smartphones and tablets.

It has been both entertaining and instructional to watch traditional media struggle to come to terms with being in constant catch-up mode. Most shows readily acknowledge that what they are reporting is no longer current, and many TV news anchors now incorporate real-time Twitter feeds into their programming and reporting, as if this somehow makes their analysis more immediate and cutting-edge.

To their credit, most news organizations are gamely trying to serve both the new media and old media audiences. Web sites and mobile apps push the news to us at an ever faster pace, and media brands and their on-screen representatives are busy building their online followers. 

It’s easy to see why TV is often accused of replacing hard news  with opinion, most of it colored by political persuasion. The hard news has already been reported, so all that’s left is mostly posturing and spin. At the other end of the spectrum, online consumers struggle to discern fact from fiction, reality from rumor, and  good judgment from mere guesswork.

Lately I have taken to watching TV with a laptop or tablet resting on my knees, combining the big screen and the little screen in a veritable smorgasbord of live action, Twitter analysis, and just plain old Facebook gossip. Whether it’s The Voice, the NBA Finals, or The Rachel Maddow Show, I’ve become my own news anchor, supplementing whatever’s happening on the big screen with my ‘expert’ commentary and opinion.

Perhaps this is the way of the future. We don’t have to choose between old and new media – bring them together and maybe we’ll get the best of both worlds!