by Megan Cloherty

We’ve all see ‘Charlie Bit my Finger’ and the ‘Sneezing Panda.’ Those YouTube videos will go down as classics. But where did we hear about them? Chances are, on t.v.

Just in case you haven’t seen them:

More and more television producers I know say they are frustrated that online trends, like the latest YouTube sensations, are driving news content. Oftentimes producers are on the lookout for a kicker, something cute or funny to put towards the end of a show. But one of my friends says, on slow news days, trolling the internet for content is perfectly acceptable in her newsroom.

“Last week we ran a story about the Naughty-or-Nice-a-tron app on Facebook — another marketing tool the producer just thought was neat.” My friend is a producer for a local station in Los Angeles who wanted me to omit her name from this blog post, but has strong feelings about whether Facebook status trends should be used as news, “another story on our show yesterday was the top 10 Twitter trends of the year.”

Here’s the story in the L.A. Times:

There’s no question topics generated online are featured on the news everyday, such as the WikiLeaks fallout. But the question is, where is the line when it comes to pulling content from the internet? Should web trends be categorized as news?

My friend is leaning against it, “We’re using other people’s material, without permission, because we don’t have the resources or drive to find stories that actually need reporting on. I mean, once a million people have already seen it, surely a good chunk of our audience is already aware it exists? Is that a “new” story?”

Long before Facebook was leading the newscasts and Zuckerberg was a cover boy, CNN’s Jeannie Moos was on the trend beat. She is known for her light and humorous stories which are often included in morning shows across the country. But my friend says the turn around time, leaves the trends feeling a bit stale for daily news, “By the time her stories hit the feeds, they’re a day or two old — and the day she FILED the story it was probably something people had been talking about for at least a couple of days.”

And as you might imagine, it’s not just television and newspaper in on the web trending, radio is in the game as well. Here’s an NPR story about the popularity of farming games on Facebook. NPR: Latest Web Trends

Finally there is the question of fair use, which I know we’ll delve into later in the program. But there are many sites, like personal blogs, that producers can use for content but then can’t archive or post to the station’s site.