Over the weekend, as protests over the alleged re-election win of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad swelled in Iran, reports on the unrest in the country leaked out onto Twitter. (Even as the government of that country was evidently restricting access to opposition websites and text-messaging.) But in the Twitterverse, a separate uprising took place, as tweets marked with the hashtag #cnnfail began tearing into the cable-news network for devoting too few resources to the controversy in Iran.
By yesterday, the hashtag revolt began to subside, as CNN—coincidentally or not—increased its on-air coverage of events in Iran. Whether or not Twitter had anything to do with it, the protest did show a few things:
* As much talk as there is about Twitter and other social media supplanting the likes of CNN in covering breaking news, they’re really another source rather than a replacement—and Twitter users know that as well as anyone else. Thus, they want—and demand—big news organizations to step up, nimbly and responsively, to cover fast-changing events like this.
* If you follow the streams of tweets on the Iran election, they are unsurprisingly favorable to Mousavi, given that the conversation is dominated by Westerners and the sort of younger, urban Iranians who were Mousavi’s base. One source of frustration seemed to be the reluctance of mainstream news organizations, CNN included, to quickly question the legitimacy of the vote—something hard to ascertain, however fishy things seemed, because Western news organizations don’t have the kind of field polling and research in Iran that they do in, say, New Hampshire. (Outlets like the New York Times also came under fire on Twitter for coverage that readers thought were too credulous of the official results.)
* As Baynewser points out, another failing of CNN’s was its failure to use its own Twitter feed better. Too busy worried about the competition from @aplusk?
* Even if Twitter is not an out-and-out replacement for breaking news coverage by TV, it is determinedly now a big voice in real-time media criticism.
If you were following the election story over the weekend, let us know if you thought any outlets did an especially good (or bad) job.