Massucci's Take: Ann Curry steals the show at Twitter conference

After two days at the 140 Characters Conference in Manhattan, it was clear that NBC's Today Show news anchor Ann Curry won the respect of the crowd with her message of "truth" and "credibility" in journalism.

People at the Twitter conference are hungry for more coverage of hard news, such as the riots on the streets of Iran, and were still talking about her message of at the unofficial conference wrap-up party at Lucky Strike lanes in New York City late Wednesday night.
"When she said she was sitting up late at night Tweeting about breaking news because she felt that sense of obligation to the people that follow her (on Twitter), my level of respect for her went through the roof," said Sukhjit Ghag, who runs a video blog in San Francisco, said at the conference on Wednesday. "To me, it's about truth and Ann Curry was speaking the truth."

Curry, who also co-hosts a later hour during the weekday Today Show, spoke about "the responsibility of media" to make difficult choices when covering news, during a panel discussion on Tuesday about Twitter and TV coverage. The discussion included Curry and CNN anchor and avid Twitterer Rick Sanchez. Curry, though, stole the show. She still had the conference buzzing long after her appearance.

"People got intense value from her because she understands what's going on in social media," said Damien Basile, a branding consultant, said at Wednesday night's party where folks gathered to watch Wine Library TV host Gary Vaynerchuk appear on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.

While on stage, Curry struck a chord with many in the audience, saying "we are at at time when we must all step up" and help report the news that is going on around the world. She is very careful about what she publishes, or tweets, she said, because her credibility is on the line.

"With social media, we can empathize with our subjects in order to see and report on a story truthfully," Curry said at the conference. That message resonated with the crowd. She was not shy about answering shouted questions from the audience. By the end of the discussion, folks flocked to the stage to speak with her.

"Her passion to undercover the truth and deliver honest information to the public impressed me the most," Roni Jenkins, managing partner at Digital Strategies, said in an e-mail. "She is now my new hero."

Cathy Brooks, who hosts a weekly Web talk show and worked at TechTV, called Curry the "real deal" and an "authentic voice. I trust what she tweets."

While asking people what they were most impressed or moved by at the conference, Curry's name came up almost every time. Her mix of modesty and honesty connected with the crowd. Nothing speaks louder in the Twitter community than this: she added more than 10,000 followers since her appearance on Tuesday. That's a 25 percent increase, showing that people approve of her truth-in-news message.

Curry won approval when she said, "We have to look at whether or not mainstream media is covering the world fast enough and the answer is no." There was unexpected tension in the air, Ghag said, when those on the panel debated how well the media covers "hard or real" news versus the "celebrity and pop news" that wins ratings wars.

Ghag admitted that she had "slightly misjudged Ann Curry before she spoke. Because she's an NBC television news anchor, I didn't believe she had the depth and true journalistic heart that she showed."

Curry won the stage battle at the New World Stages in New York City because her news judgment struck a chord with the citizen journalists who report their news at Twitter each day. With that, she implored the folks on Twitter, Sanchez and others in media to hold themselves to a higher journalistic standard.

Curry, who has almost 50,000 followers, has become an overnight star on Twitter after her appearance at the conference this week. She was unavailable for an interview after unsuccessful attempts to reach her through a Today Show producer and her publicist.

Sanchez and Curry agreed that news continues to be a ratings-driven business. What the audience voiced and demanded was more news about lives at stake, political unrest and injustice around the world.

The question is can Curry and Sanchez help deliver that news? And if they do, will folks on and off Twitter watch?

Anthony Massucci is a senior writer for DailyFinance. You may follow him on Twitter at hianthony.
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