One of the promises of the social web was that we would get news as it happens, live from the scene of the action. Anyone with a phone and a twitter account can break news. The fact that non-journalists might screw up on the facts is balanced by trusted news brands; news organisations with a heritage in conventional media, who might be later to the punch, but will get the facts straight.
Sadly it isn’t turning out quite like that. With a really big news story, like the outcome of the Amanda Knox appeal, the critical factor is to be first. Why? Because Google likes it. I have first hand experience because as a lowly blogger I posted about Stephen Fry getting stuck in a lift, whilst he was still stuck (I saw him tweet about it). More than two years on my post is No.2 on Google for “Stephen Fry Lift” just behind the Telegraph and ahead of the Mail.
Tonight it looks suspiciously like both Sky News and the Mail in order to get out there first published the news before it actually happened. Both organisations were so sure what the outcome of the Knox appeal would be, that they pressed publish before they had confirmation. It’s a risky play. The audience won’t stay trusting for ever.