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CNN’s Griffiths says media even more relevant in the social media age

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Richard Griffiths

Photo by Tracey Eaton

March 11, 2014

With more than half a billion tweets on Twitter every day, CNN’s Richard Griffiths told students at Flagler College’s Communication Week that social media makes the job of the mainstream media even more important and relevant today.


“Trust seems to be at a real premium,” he said. “The issue is how can I tell what's real or what's not? That's where mainstream media still come in.”

Griffiths, Vice-President and Senior Editorial Director of CNN, was the keynote speaker for Flagler’s ninth COM Week, which is taking place March 10-13. The event features speakers from a variety of communication industries, including advertising, public relations, journalism and film. This year’s theme is “Jump Start: YOU.”

“For good or ill the past 200 years, the mainstream media have had a monopoly on news distribution,” he said.

But blogging, Facebook and Twitter came along and made it possible for anyone to reach a vast universe of readers without the help of an editor.

While social media allows news to be elevated to a wider audience than it ever has before, Griffiths said it also becomes fertile ground for rumors, false information and outright hoaxes. Like when news broke on Twitter that Morgan Freeman had died. Reports attributed it to CNN, which was news to Griffiths.

“It was a hoax,” he said. “An inside joke that went viral. It took hours to tamp down.”

But he said that has always been the media’s strengths: checking into rumors, doing actual reporting to verify facts, and going places like war zones in Syria to tell readers and viewers what’s really happening.

“It's that context that makes the difference between social media and news media,” he said. “I don't see Twitter or Facebook sending reporters to Crimea.”

Griffiths is by no means against social media — Facebook and Twitter are major tools in the broadcaster's newsgathering and dissemination toolbox. He said social media brings in reliable tips that a network like CNN can assign investigative resources to and break important stories the public wouldn't have otherwise known about.

“Social media gives us a chance to engage with audiences,” he said, adding CNN is now working with social media companies to try and spot news trends on social media as they are happening.

Griffiths is responsible for editorial quality control for CNN and oversees “the Row,” the network’s correspondent script approval and story-vetting operation. He is also responsible for oversight of investigative journalism at CNN and has also been closely involved in CNN’s “Freedom Project,” an effort to shed light on modern forms of slavery.

Griffiths’ visit to Flagler comes in part to Flagler student Kathleen Qullian who interned with him at the network last summer.