I know that it’s a popular pastime among the social media cogniscenti to talk about how real-time information sources like Twitter are constantly trumping the so-called mainstream news media’s ability to cover stories, but I have to say that the current drumbeat of Twitter vs. CNN on the Iranian elections is a bit too much to bear without some sort of reality check.
As you should be aware, the last few days have seen a surprisingly controversial election for the role of President of Iran, with moderate candidate Mirhossein Mousavi believing that he had a substantial lead over President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The poll results were dramatic: Ahmadinejad got 62% of the popular vote, while Mousavi only got 33%.
If the election wasn’t rigged.
Meanwhile, flash to the social media types who are crowing about how CNN apparently wasn’t aggressively covering the growing story and how that just demonstrates yet again how mainstream news sources just don’t get it. (For a few examples, see Robert Scoble’s piece on how “Twitter kicked CNN’s butt”, or Daniel Terdiman’s piece about the “#cnnfail” Twitter hashtag, or Marshall Kirkpatrick saying “CNN should check Twitter for news about Iran”).
The problem is that all of these self-appointed pundits are missing that CNN isn’t the entirety of the mainstream media and that all the other sources were right on top of the story. This was a CNN failure, if it was anything, not a failure of mainstream media.
To demonstrate this point, check out this graph from Google News on who had this story, when:
In this graph, A = ABC News, B = Wall Street Journal, C = New York Times, D = The Washington Post, E = Dar Al Hyat, an Arabic-language news outlet, F= Reuters, G = BBC News, H = PRESS TV, and so on. More importantly, though, notice how many outlets were following this growing story as it transpired: On June 12, almost 2000 stories were filed in various news media.
This is “missing the story”?
I’m a bit of a social media snob too, so I get the zeal to show those old-school journalists how they’re missing the boat, but in this case, it just isn’t true.