PBS NewsHour Anchor Judy Woodruff: ‘Today, Every Second Is a Deadline: Social Media Have Erased the Luxury of Time’

By A.J. Katz 

Paper magazine talked to more than 40 TV newsers from across the cable and broadcast news spectrum about the break-neck pace of the news cycle in 2018, the positives and negatives social media has brought to the newsgathering and reporting process, combating accusations of “fake news,” presenting the news to a divided nation, and how they feel about the future of America.

On the pace of news:

“Working in cable in the late 1990s and early 2000s taught me about hourly deadlines. Today, every second is a deadline: social media have erased the luxury of time,” said PBS NewsHour anchor Judy Woodruff.

On the amount of news:

“When I started in the business years ago, a top story could last for days – even weeks. Now, we have a tough time getting all the day’s news into a single hour,” said Fox News @ Night anchor Shannon Bream.

The influence of the Internet, social media and of course, Twitter on TV journalism:

“When I started in journalism, we would often learn of breaking news from the wire services: AP, Reuters, UPI. It could take hours before we had a real understanding of what was happening,” said CNN The Situation Room anchor Wolf Blitzer. “Technology has given us the ability to learn about and report stories, as they are developing, much faster than was once possible. Now, we often learn about breaking news on various social media posts. We will see a tweet from what appears to be an eyewitness. We are able to receive and air video of a shooting or a hurricane as it happens in a way that was never previously possible. That gives a breaking story an immediacy it didn’t have years ago. It also forces us to make much tougher, split-second decisions about what we should put on television.”

The evolving technology has, in any ways, actually made reporting easier a lot of the time:

“[Twitter] became such a critical part of telling [the story of what happened to Michael Brown] and it was the first time that organizers were fully organizing online, that people were coordinating on the ground using social media.,” said MSNBC correspondent Trymaine Lee. “You see the DeRay Mckessons of the world emerge from this landscape and I think that was a pivot point, especially for those journalists such as myself who make our money on the ground, telling the story, taking you to the where the story is actually happening… that changed everything for me.”

But there are definitely challenges:

“While technology propels information faster than ever, it can also propel misinformation,” said CBSN anchor and CBS News correspondent Elaine Quijano. “So in a breaking news situation, we check, double-check and triple-check facts and we’re transparent about that process to our viewers.”

The Trump presidency means fact-checking is as important as its ever been:

“In an era where we are all lumped together as ‘Fake News’ my colleagues’ mistakes are mine, and mine are theirs,” said ABC News chief global affairs correspondent and This Week co-anchor Martha Raddatz. “We should be as vigilant as we possibly can be.”

On partisanship:

“[There is now an] expectation that we will offer an opinion, a bias, on-air. People will often stop me and say — and they mean this as a compliment and I take it as such — ‘Wow, I watch you and I can’t tell if you’re a Republican or a Democrat,'” said NBC Nightly News and Dateline NBC anchor Lester Holt. “I always kind of smile, like, ‘Alright.’ I don’t think of that when I do my job as a journalist but that, to me, is a symptom of this changing audience perception of what television news is about.”

Despite turbulent times, TV newsers haven’t lost faith!

“I’ve not given up on humanity and I’ve certainly not given up on the people in this country,” said CBS This Morning co-anchor Gayle King. “So, no, I can’t say that I’m pessimistic. The thing is, everybody knows the right thing to do.”