Speak (or Tweet) Only If It Improves On The Silence – Gandhi

Ever get the feeling that if The Graduate were remade in 2013, instead of “plastics,” Benjamin would be told to get into “infographics.”  (And Benjamin would be played by Zach Braff, Zachary Levi or the guy from the Office.) The dialogue would go something like this:

Mr McGuire: I just want to say one word to you. Just one word.
Benjamin: Yes, sir.
Mr McGuire: Are you listening?
Benjamin: Yes, I am.
Mr McGuire: Infographics.
Benjamin: (formerly “Exactly how do you mean?) [Some snarky tell me more line.  . . ]

The smart folks at Google and Visual.ly have created easily accessible and easy to use tools for producing graphics and trending.   Google Trends graphs popularity of search terms and trending concepts.  Forbes recently published how three economists have found that Google trends can predict stock trends fairly consistently.   That’s not all Google Trends can predict, apparently.  J M Berger, author of Jihad Joe and IntelWire correctly used google trends to predict within two weeks when the next ‘terrorist attack’ would happen on US  soil.

Note the red peak over May 2013
Note the red peak over May 2013

Last week, in its covering of the Boston Marathon, the news became fodder for the news, or, at least, the pundits. And the gaffs were many: Fox and Al Arabiya, which sourced from Fox,  overstating the number of casualties, thankfully; CNN, WSJ and the AP announcing that an arrest had been made on 17 April, The New York Post’s yellow journalism and an Anderson Cooper guest (CNN again) conflating Chechnya, the Czech Republic and Slovakia into a present day Czechoslovakia, uncorrected later in the week.  Even The Atlantic named names that it did not mean to mention, on the 17th the 17 yr old suspect’s name made it twice into the paragraph after [name withheld] appeared twice.

It had me yearning for Tim Russert (ok, not hard to do, and hey, how cool would David Kirkpatrick be as the un-tim russert, Celtic-Gaelic last name, check; from Buffalo, check; completely different interview style, uh check. But I digress.) and the methodical mind needed to plot everything on a white board.  MSNBC shown through, not only in its restrained coverage on social media on the 17th but its teamwork.  Many tweets from Andrea Mitchell to interns mentioned Pete Williams and his reporting, which maintained no arrest had been made.  This cohesion was a far cry from the CNN coverage which then turned to blaming its experts rather than retracting their mistakes.

So did their accuracy and unity influence any trends following their stellar coverage?  Testing out Google Trends, the sad answer is no.  The graph below shows that for all its continued integrity, MSNBC and parent channel/company NBC cannot add up to the number of people showing interest in Fox and CNN.

Some of the other coverage of the coverage

The Nieman Lab reflects on silence and timing in networked journalism. And where the title for this post came from.

Visual.ly infographic on the hashtag #BostonStrong.

create infographics with visual.ly

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