As most of us are now painfully aware, there’s a Royal knot-tying ceremony taking place tomorrow in Westminster Abbey.
The future King of Britain, is to wed the people’s commoner Kate Middleton. In fact you’d be doing well to have avoided this news. There are reported to be around 8,000 journalists covering this event, around 800 from the three main UK broadcast networks.
F1 frontman Jake Humphrey is covering it from the air, there are even TV crews camped inside the pub in Ms Middleton’s home village. All this to serve our apparently insatiable demand for news of the happy event.
But has it really been necessary to devote so much coverage to the event? After all it’s not as if it’s been quiet on the news front. Today the BBC website has the Royal wedding as the top news story – on the same day when also on the news agenda is the continued Arab Spring protests in Syria and Yemen; civil war in Libya, Palestinian political advances, Thai-Cambodia conflict, Obama’s need to release his birth certificate.
Has coverage of what is, in effect, an overblown celebrity wedding, detracted from what viewers are interested in?
No one is suggesting that the wedding should not be covered, or that it won’t be popular, just that the wall-to-wall coverage might have gone too far. There might be better ways of serving the viewers interests.
Comedian Chris Addison remarked on Twitter this morning:
The BBC news is being presented from outside Buckingham Palace. Over 24 hours in advance. #totallyinproportion
This is why I get my news online. It’s easier to wade through the wall of bullshit separating the viewer from the actual news.
That’s why it’s interesting to see that Al Jazeera is experimenting with the way it delivers news, using the web to deliver news coverage. It’s taken up the gauntlet thrown down by the likes of Chris Addison and started to run with it.
The programme is using social media to set the news agenda, to guide and inform its coverage. It’s using the new service Storify to curate feeds. It allows for a two-way conversation with the audience. There’s a great article which appeared in the New York Times discussing the new show.
It’s encouraging to see a broadcaster start to experiment with the web. It’s a creative first step into combining the best of the web with the power of a multi-national broadcast operation, and it could be the start of a cultural shift in news production.
Perhaps naturally, text-based journalism has been ahead of the curve in terms of innovation on the web, but broadcasters still need to embrace the web as more than just a distribution network for content. .
This is just a first step, but an encouraging one nonetheless. It’s not an attempt at getting low quality UGC, it’s an innovative attempt to give the audience what they want, to serve them better and to cover the stories that interest them in the depth that they truly warrant.