When Harvey Levin’s TMZ broke the news of Michael Jackson’s death, it was heralded as yet another victory in the battle of “new media” versus “old.” This past week, the tech/geek crowd has been obsessed with TechCrunch as being the only media outlet to receive – and publish – confidential Twitter company documents.
However, with the recent passing of former CBS News Anchor Walter Cronkite, it was The New York Times who got the story out first, via a fundamental tenet of reporting: a phone call from a source. Cronkite’s son Chip called the Times to let them know of the news. Peter Himler, who served as Chief Media Officer for Edelman Worldwide, following 11 years with Burson-Marsteller as head of the agency’s U.S. corporate and strategic media team and its worldwide spokesperson, reflects on his own experiences on his blog, The Flack:
In early 2003, the family of former CBS Inc. CEO Thomas Wyman asked my firm to help handle the news of his death. The PR duties fell to me. Working with his son, I finally had an announcement in hand. My first call: the city desk of The New York Times followed shortly by the AP city desk. At The Times, Douglas Martin, who penned Mr. Cronkite’s obit, took the lead on Mr. Wyman’s. The media universe ran with the news from there.
As I consider Mr. Cronkite’s passing, I’m stuck on the question of media validation. Which outlets have the journalistic chops to make it safe for everyone else to publish, post or broadcast a big breaking news story? Should one trust TechCrunch, TMZ or BNO as they would a New York Times, AP or CBS News? It’s already clear that many bloggers and most microbloggers don’t distinguish. Shouldn’t they?
Himler makes some good points, namely: which news sources do you trust? It also begs the question: Who would you call when delivering a piece of news as significant as the one Himler had to deliver?