Hate the breaking news chaos? Turn it off

Not having the 24/7 cable channels available in my house, I didn’t get the opportunity to watch the unfolding coverage of the San Francisco airport crash in its initial hours. I saw a few things on Twitter about it, but didn’t dive in too deeply until Sunday, by which time enough information was available to me to understand why the plane crashed, at least from an aerodynamics perspective.

Like any major breaking news stories these days, however, this one has now reached the point where the focus is on whether “the media” does justice in the coverage.

Today on CBS, for example, Chesley Sullenberger, the Miracle on the Hudson pilot, chastised his employers for, apparently, not waiting the year it will take for the NTSB to determine the cause. I’m hearing the same thing from many of my airline pilot friends.

Well, too bad, a journalist says.

It is not reasonable in 2013 to expect to remain uninformed for an extended period, Mathew Ingram writes today on PaidContent. And the chaos of information via social media (like Twitter)

News sources aren’t restricted to eyewitnesses or armchair experts either: in an interesting twist, the National Transportation Safety Board — which is investigating the crash — started posting photos of the crash site and the ruined airplane on Twitter within hours of the accident, including pieces of the fuselage, landing gear that had been separated from the plane, etc. In effect, anyone following the event in real time has had as much or more information than they could have gotten from any traditional news source.

Were mistakes and errors retweeted during the aftermath of the crash? Almost certainly there were — but just as mainstream news outlets like the New York Times and CNN made mistakes in their initial reports and then corrected them over time, so did Twitter, as more information was added by eyewitnesses, journalists, “citizen reporters” and other sources. That kind of chaos isn’t for everyone, but if you enjoy watching the news about an event take shape in real time, there is nothing like it.

Ingram updates an old saw for people who don’t like the pace at which news arrives. “If you don’t like the chaos of breaking news, turn it off.”

Update 1:55 p.m. Pilots union says probe of Asiana crash revealed too much, too fast (Reuters)