The other day I was reading  David Frum’s column “The challenge for cable news” where he stated the following:

“Things move fast in the modern world, so let’s cut straight to the point: Cable TV is no longer the place where news breaks, and has not been so for years. Social media have done to cable TV news what cable news, in its day, did to the afternoon editions of big-city papers: shouldered aside its slower and less adaptable predecessor.”

This morning I woke up and took out my iPad and perused the online news feeds and immediately saw the unfolding gunman shootout events in New York City. I checked Twitter and found the hashtag’s #ESB and #EmpireStateBuilding and from there was quickly filled in with the details of the tragedy as they came in. After about an hour I saw that Mayor Bloomberg was to hold a news conference so it was only then that I turned on the TV and clicked on DirecTV’s news directory channel where I could scan CNN, MSNBC, FOX, CNBC, FBN for their ongoing coverage. What I saw was pretty lame.

The news outlets were still far behind what was being communicated on Twitter and were also lacking in any real reporting of the facts as they came forth. CNN was by far the worst in its coverage as Ashley Banfield tried to sum up the tragedy with a number of stupid comments about the iconic Empire State Building and other inane information.

As I continued to monitor the Twitter feed and checked out the links the story became clearer. Once Mayor Bloomberg had his news briefing (seen live on YouTube), Twitter was following along with the facts as he and his police commissioner briefed the throngs of media.

Later, CNN couldn’t even get the facts straight regarding the gunman’s sequence of events. They said that perpetrator, Jeffrey Johnson, was 56 (initially reported by police as being 53 but later corrected by the NY Times as 58) and that “he will not be prosecuted for murder.” Really? A comment on Twitter made fun of the statement with the line “Thanks Captain Obvious.”

To be fair, Twitter also contained many comments that were either inaccurate or outright false, but the majority of comments continued to be updated and had the correct information. This, along with photos, onsite witness accounts and links to video footage made social media a far better choice to learn about the unfolding events. 

What the cable media outlets were missing most of all was true reporting where their reporters would gather facts and check their sources while ensuring accuracy before being communicated over the air. Instead of being first on the scene and getting it wrong, or worse, reporting from the studio with a litany of irrelevant and inane comments just to fill air time, the cable news outfits should understand that the public using Twitter, Storify and Instagram will get now always get the scoop. The traditional media, including cable news, now has the job of getting the facts straight, reporting with accuracy and giving the story context. As Frum states in his piece, “Cable should skip fancy effects, go deep and long in reports, [and] find new relevance.”  Instead, cable news organizations tend to fill the air with their so-called “experts” and other pundits wishing to express opinions as opposed to employing actual journalists that will dig deeper and provide facts and pertinent information.

From what Bloomberg and Commissioner Raymond Kelly said the perpetrator, Jeffrey Johnson, fatally shot his former boss at point-blank range five times in front of his former workplace, Hazan Import Corporation on West 33rd Street. The shooter then walked eastbound towards the visitor entrance of the Empire State Building on 5th Avenue and was followed by a construction worker who then informed two police officers that were in a van guarding the Empire State Building as part of the ongoing counter terrorism security. After informing the officers, they then approached  Johnson who immediately pulled his .45 caliber handgun from a bag and pointed it at the officers. The officers then shot a total of 16 rounds killing Johnson while also wounding nine bystanders (fortunately with non-life threatening injuries) during the confrontation.

These were the basic facts of the tragic event as told by Bloomberg and the police commissioner which I then checked by finding the details about the Hazan Import Co. address, reviewing eye-witness accounts and by further follow-up with the New York Times and New York Post.  Why CNN and other cable news outlets couldn’t seem to master the duties of basic reporting during the first two hours after the incident is only part of the reason why they are becoming less significant as credible news sources. Finally, the irony was not lost on me that Frum’s article was posted on CNN. You’d think they’d get the message.