The introduction of the internet, applications, online communities and networks has created a new form of interaction and exchanging information known as social media. This has changed virtually all methods of obtaining and sharing knowledge. It has had a profound impact on the way we practice journalism. Virtual societies have fundamentally altered the way we communicate. The meaning of Journalism has changed. Journalism was a style that aims to provide a service to the public through dissection of the news. Now, how it is practiced, and by whom, has reformed the entire sphere of reporting.
A new dimension has been added to journalism. Modern day journalism has been stuffed with layers of information for audiences and journalists. Social media means journalists have to approach the news through newsgathering by researching networks, sites and by crowdsourcing. The speed in which information is demanded has rapidly increased. The modern audience has access to a wide range of voices. Journalists are able to collect more material and obtain access to people who can share their own opinions. For example, when in 2007, Barack Obama was an unknown senator running for president against a household name, Hilary Clinton; his victory came as his campaign used social media and technology as an integral part of its strategy.
There are many uses for social media. Journalists can monitor social media noting the trending changes in news and stories. Social newswire Storyful is a tool used for monitoring trends on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other networks with keywords which may relate to an event. Social media now gets the first word on news. However, journalists utilize it for an investigative approach. The information is raw. Premature ruins of a potentially important event. Journalism allows the cultivation of that information. The duty of the common journalist is to assure the truthfulness of that information. Journalists compile various sources to create an analytical study. Eliot Higgins, known for his blog on munitions used in the Syrian civil war, has built a respectable collection of sources from social media. He uses social media to find and analyze stories of the conflict. Closed social networks and geo-locating social media are also helpful to journalists. It all permits use for gaining relevant information and building stronger news stories.
The influence is simple. Journalists can use it for practical reasons. They can maintain a work related blog and connect with other people in their field and audiences can become part of the story. Journalists can reply to people and interact with them. They can see trending topics, rising issues, and controversial matters which they otherwise could not find. Journalists have access to blogs, microblogs, content communities, professional networking sites, sharing sites, and social reader sites to publish, source, network, monitor, and verify facts and ideas. For example, the Trayvon Martin killing in Florida. It took social media for news organizations to pay attention to this racially-charged incident of a neighborhood watch volunteer shooting an unarmed black teenager. The story picked up after a petition was signed on Change.org that gathered 1.75 million signatures asking for the prosecution of Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman, who had not been arrested at the time. Engagement has become a huge part of Journalism.
Journalists have now been divided into groups in their relation to social media. Different people use it for various reasons. Often the content is merely observed. Others chose to create content using social media. There are also promoters, who use it to advocate for their own work and hunters, who use it to find contacts. Many people are also skeptical about the radical change. They remain negative about it. 20% of journalists believe that that social media will lead to the death of professional journalism.
Obviously, this presents social media’s negatives to journalism. Traditional values are thought to be dying out. People have been going online to social networks such as Reddit or Facebook instead of old-fashioned organizations for news. The decline of print media is a huge shift in journalism. Media outlets are forced to adapt to changing trends or face extinction.
The commonness of mobile phones and cameras is making producing and sharing news easier. Audiences can engage with each other contributing views even without the use of journalists. Through this, technology is making journalists redundant. Online news is not competing in terms of quality. John Kelly, a columnist for the Washington Post says “today the Huffington Post competes with the Washington Post not in terms of journalism, but in terms of its readers.”
Furthermore, social media has proved to be hotheaded. People become easily influenced by tweets and Facebook which is dangerous for inaccurate posts. Twitter has no filter. The speed does not allow space for accuracy. However, with the rapidity of social media, inaccurate reports are debunked sometimes with the same speed.
Social media can be misused. According to a survey, 70% of Journalists have been harassed about their work or the outlet for which they work. Some 27% had been threatened, with 12% being sexually harassed.
Also, unchecked facts can lead to wrong people being accused of crimes due to a decentralized information sharing system. As suspects emerge, many users can pry into the private lives of suspects. This can lead to harassment of individuals and their families. This happened during the Boston Bombing, the Aurora, Colorado Theater shooting, and the family of James Holmes. It is an example of mob mentality in social media.
Moreover, social media lacks objectivity. The separation in journalism and social media is the subjectivity. We should be able to trust journalism. With social media, trust has become more important. Social media has made journalism a form of delivery, a method of presentation. Social media provides information however that is not news. Richard Sambrook, director of the BBC Global News Division remarks “You get a lot of things, when you open up Twitter, but not journalism. Journalism needs discipline, analysis, explanation and context. And that makes the difference.”
Nevertheless, social platforms have provided a vast range of topics for audiences. Variety has reformed the structure of mundane news. Often some sites are more reliable for news than others in social media. However, audiences differ in each platform, altering the impact of news on each outlet. Twitter news consumers are significantly younger than news consumers on Facebook and Google Plus. Facebook news consumers are more likely to be female than news consumers on YouTube and Twitter. Similarly, when opinions arise after a news event, they can change in time, thus adding further inaccuracy. For example, on Twitter, a poll was taken on same-sex marriage. For those two weeks, 55% were opposed. But, afterwards for four weeks, statements in support outnumbered those in opposition.
Users can document the news as it happens, creating a new subsection of journalists known as citizen journalists. In the violent protests, following the Iranian elections of 2009 and the Mumbai attacks in 2008 has led many to believe that witnesses are taking over the news. The Asian Tsunami and the London bombings have also been examples of the journalistic power of ordinary people. Today, the first haunting images of Syria’s civil war or the meteorite strike in Siberia in 2013 – often come from common citizens. These are all excellent examples of how powerful new internet tools like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter are.
Social media is a complicated structure. Despite this, journalists seem to favor the positives and are incorporating social media in its role in Journalism. 96% use social media for their work daily. However, strictly on their own terms. The same values remain, however the tools have been changed. They have made it part of their culture. New rules are made, guidelines rewritten. Training is given to staff. Correspondents are being appointed. In one week, BBC processes over 10,000 email comments, 1,000 stills and 100 video clips. The greatest advantage remains the ability to interact with audiences. Information can move quickly among large groups of people.
There is greater pressure than ever on editors over what to report and when. Breaking news is no longer at the hands of News organizations. Validating it is. The journalist is now a gatekeeper. The most important source of news validation is from Industry Insiders. Expert spokespeople are now the first place journalists go to in order to get their news. The news cycle has been renovated. A historical shift of control between the reader and the journalist has arrived. But what are the effects in the long term? How will the inevitable growth of social media impact Journalism?
Traditional values still remain. News organizations no longer need to just report the news but bring new angles. In conclusion, it all relies on flexibility. The perseverance of journalism is based on adaptability. A few years ago, discussions raged about whether you could trust new media, and whether it would destroy old journalism,” says Charlie Beckett, a former Journalist, ‘I think we’ve realized that it is inevitable and it is not a choice.’
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