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CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric said it's not inevitable that traditional news outlets—television, print, and radio—will be steamrolled by the Internet, as long as the so-called "old media" channels learn to co-opt the best of the Web while preserving the credibility they've spent decades establishing.
"To all the critics who say lamestream media is dead, I say, 'Not so fast fellas," said Couric, who spoke Tuesday in New York at the Web 2.0 Expo, co-hosted by O'Reilly Media and UBM TechWeb (publisher of InformationWeek.com). Couric cited a recent Pew survey that found that local television is still the number one source of news in the U.S., and that only 9% of consumers get their news online exclusively.
But that doesn't mean old media can standstill in the face of threats from alternative sources like blogs, social media sites, and aggregators.
The famously bubbly anchor, whose controversial interview with VP candidate Sarah Palin is believed by many to have swayed the outcome of the 2008 Presidential election, said CBS and other mainstream networks are increasingly using Web 2.0 tools to supplement their news gathering sources and add immediacy to their broadcasts.
For instance, during the Gulf oil spill CBS frequently reached out to local residents through Facebook and Twitter to find out what questions were foremost on their minds. "I didn't have to presuppose or predict, it made the broadcast better," said Couric.
Similarly, CBS News staffers monitored Twitter during the recent New Zealand earthquake to get a better feel for what was happening on the ground in the moments after the temblor struck. "The two [old media and new media] can add up to a smarter, richer product," said Couric.
In response to a question from InformationWeek, Couric added that the network does take steps to verify information it gleans through social media. "We don't just throw anything up there," said Couric.
Earlier in her presentation, which was co-hosted by O'Reilly Media founder Tim O'Reilly, Couric characterized herself as an old media pro who's still learning the ins and outs of Web 2.0. "I'm working hard to adapt to this new world I still call the Information Superhighway—that's how hip I am," Couric joked.
"I feel like I've finally been invited to sit with the cool kids," said Couric.