iPhone, iPads, texts and tweets

Communications and information technology has moved faster than most of us could have dreamed just a decade ago, and nowhere has the impact been as great as in the business of news gathering and dissemination.  The way that the new technology is used, however, is disconcerting to some.

An NBC10 viewer emailed:

“I have been a loyal viewer of NBC10 for the past 21 years. I am recently disgusted by the use of cellular devices on air, starting with the elections and the checking of the iPads,” he wrote. “(Anchors) are tweeting on the air, and, most recently, (one reporter) was checking his Blackberry for updates on cancellations at the airport.”

“Although I feel it is important to keep the public up-to-date with the most recent news,” the viewer wrote, “I feel it is inappropriate for reporters to be consulting and referencing electronic devices while on air.”

Reporters and anchors do make frequent use of a number of internet connected devices, both in the gathering of information and in reporting, and often that use is evident during one of the station’s news broadcast.  But, says NBC10 News Director Chris Lanni, it’s not just for show.

“Wireless and mobile technologies are just some of the many news gathering tools that we use both behind-the-scenes and in front of the cameras to keep viewers and our website users up-to-date during and between newscasts,” says Lanni.  “Anchors use the laptops at the anchor desk to monitor wires and emails and often read updates on the air directly from those laptops.”

“In the field,” he says, “ever-changing election returns and airline delays/cancellations are perfect examples of when using mobile technology is appropriate.  Being transparent about the source and immediacy of information on the air simply reinforces for the viewer that the news is as up-to-date as it can be.”

The old news maxim of “get it first but get it right” still rules. The dangers in the age of text message, tweets, emails, blogs and millions of websites simply requires a greater diligence in verifying information.  But the use of all the technology available – whether on-air or behind the camera – is an essential part of any modern television news gathering organization.

This column was originally published on Turnto10.com (WJAR-TV) on Jan. 12, 2011.

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