The Importance of Real Time News and Information

I agree, this is not news. Our lives are getting faster and we expect to know what is happening right now in the world, not what happened five hours ago or yesterday. For those of us who work with information and live online, television and radio are often not fast enough. We expect to hear about things as they happen.

Lawyers need to stay on top of what is happening to clients so they can help respond in a timely manner. As librarians, the challenge is pulling information together so that those we serve are up to date. In the journalism realm, reporters strive to get coverage out ever faster. When a crisis occurs, PR machines now are expected to get responses out within an hour or two. It is no longer acceptable to wait a few days to allow for crafting of messages. David Meerman Scott, author of Real-time Marketing & PR talks about this phenomenon in his video:

Real-Time Marketing & PR by David Meerman Scott

Kady O’Malley, CBC report who covers the Parliament Hill beat in Ottawa, was at the recent Canadian Bar Association conference. The CBA caught this interview with her after her talk, in which she discusses real time reporting and its affect on politics:

Kady O’Malley


One thing she doesn’t address in the video is the growing prominence of citizen journalists, people without journalist training reporting on things they are seeing. Citizen journalism really comes into play on social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube when people mention things that are happening to them or near to them. For example, when we hear of natural disasters it is usually first seen on Twitter now, especially when it comes to earthquakes. This past week for those of us on or near the east coast has been particularly exciting in this regard, with tornadoes, earthquakes and hurricanes (oh my!).

For myself, I appreciated Kady O’Malley’s real time reporting of the Jack Layton visitation in Ottawa last week via Twitter. Some of us who attended his funeral in person (I was on the street outside Roy Thompson Hall), shared photos, video and impressions of what was happening around us. I noted, watching the coverage on TV later, that it dulled in comparison with being right there. The citizen journalistic efforts were not about getting the facts correct, but about sharing impressions and feelings. It was not about a political agenda (at least, in my case) but about becoming more engaged as a citizen with the story at hand and, in some cases, feeling more a part of a community. We see this when people post tweets from events such as last week’s ILTA conference.

So, not only is real time news and information allowing us to consume more individually, but also it is allowing us to feel more connected to the story and perhaps even become a part of it. Lines are increasingly blurring in this regard: consumers are not just consumers, but also reporters.

Where does that leave us? As librarians we can no longer wait for requests for information to come our way, and then take a few hours to pull sources together as far as day to day information goes. We need to think about what sources are important, find their related real-time feeds, and pull those together automatically as much as possible (ideally with RSS feeds if available), filtering and sorting according to the interests of our clients. Especially those of us in law firms need to know what is happening so that responses can be made in a timely fashion. No longer can responses wait a week or sometimes even in a day. It is a real challenge to figure this out and get it working, but once in place it can fill that need for immediate information. From there it is a matter of tweaking the results, adding or subtracting to improve the content over time.

What are the challenges you face with looking for real time information? How are you meeting these challenges?

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