Accomodating social media in news journalism

 A report by Amadee Stenzel
 
Link to Shorthand

The online environment is integrating with everyday life, it’s apparent that digital is the way of the future and the journalism industry is not exempt from the new order. To keep up with technological developments news corporations are establishing themselves online, utilising social media as a way to reach their audience. Social media websites are interactive online platform which allows users to create and share content as well as participate in social networking. [[1]] The application of social media for news distribution is a newsworthy topic as sites such as Facebook and Twitter have become part of people’s everyday life. In order to examine the use of social media and its future in the journalism industry, several influential topics will be addressed.

Pursuing the masses

laptop

Source: Amadee Stenzel

Technological advancements in the past decade have led to increased use of online methods of information sharing and communication. News journalism has followed suit and adapted by established a presence through social media websites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. These websites are used globally because of their communication benefits and interactive nature which appeals to people on an international scale. Facebook boasts up to 1.23 billion monthly users, roughly one-sixth of the world’s population [[2]] and a study by the Pew Research Centre revealed that from 2010 to 2012, the number of people who used social media increased by 10% [[3]]. From this information it’s clear that the reach of social media is extensive. It’s vital that the journalism industry adapt to this new order or lose their audiences attention.

morepeoplegettingnewsonsocialmedia  Source: Pew Research Centre [[3]]

Major news organisations have already firmly established their online presence and built up a significant following. Credible social data company NewsWhip recorded the chief Facebook publishers of March 2014, the news source displaying the most Facebook shares was Buzzfeed [[4]]. topfacebookpublishers

Source:  NewsWhip [[4]]

Buzzfeed operates solely online and have 2.6 million Facebook likes [[5]] which assists the concept that journalistic organisations which embrace social media and establish themselves online are reaching their audience through websites such as Facebook. The pursuit of consumers is not revolutionary by any standards however it is necessary and surely if another method of communication developed in the future it would also be utilised by journalists. Adaption is essential in the journalism industry, journalists must assimilate with developing technologies or risk being left behind. However, the need to establish an online presence does have a positive outcome as new careers have developed as a result of high demand for social media professionals.

Social Media Professionals

It’s one feat for a news organisation to establish themselves on social media it’s another entirely to maintain their online presence. Hence increased use of social media has created jobs which weren’t available a decade ago as the journalism industry grows to accommodate the changing media sphere. Thanks to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and other networks, “almost every major brand or corporation has a staff member or department dedicated to social media.”[[6]] Social media professionals are required for everything from creating content to engaging with users. Educational institutions have also expanded their offerings to accommodate for the requirement of social media knowledge. An example of this can be viewed through short courses such as ‘Introduction to social media’ [[7]] currently offered at the Queensland University of Technology to any interested individuals who recognise the benefit of developing their social media skill set. However these professionally learnt skills could become obsolete in 10 years’ time according to the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA). [[6]] DSC_0980

Source: Amadee Stenzel

Previous generations of journalists did not have the opportunity to grow up with social media, however social media skills are developing as second nature to younger generations due to exposure to digital technologies earlier in life. WAN-IFRA journalist, Salim Valji, observed that if the minimum age to create a Facebook is 13, by the time someone finished high school they would have five years of social media experience [[6]]. This raises the issue of if specific education on social media use will be necessary and will those with extensive knowledge in the particular medium lose their competitive edge. Regardless social media know-how is essential for journalists as the industry accommodates these new methods of news distribution. Editor of BBC Radio 4 news programme‘PM’11, Joanna Carr even went as far to say “I wouldn’t hire anybody who doesn’t know how to use Twitter” [[8]]. It’s clear that social media knowledge has become an essential part of communication and simply another technological advance that journalists must accommodate.

Breaking the boundaries

Social media allows for interaction between the news media and consumers which was previously very limited through broadcast and print journalism. Websites such as Facebook and Twitter have several interactive methods which allow people to contribute to discussions and offer their opinion and in turn become more involved in the process of news distribution. For instance on Facebook a person may express that they enjoyed a post by liking it or sharing it to their friends.

likecommentetc

Source: Amadee Stenzel

Future technologies analyst Paul Saffo says “blogging, chat groups and adding comments to online articles are obvious examples, but they are just the beginning. In the TV era, it was hard, if not impossible to participate, but now in the new world of personal media, the exact reverse is the case: it is hard to merely be a bystander.” [[9]] The interactive nature of social media is unparalleled to any other platform used for news distribution.  Not only are consumers interacting with news media but they’re contributing to it. The ability to reply to a Tweet or comment on a Facebook post means that consumers are actually adding to the public sphere and distributing their own information to news outlets. Today, many stories are received third hand through Facebook posts or Twitter so that by the time a story is assigned to a journalist, it’s in some form or another already out there in social media [[11]]. For example, news websites including comments made by social media users in reply to a tweet, incorporating consumer contributions into everyday news.

community engagement

Example of people contributing to news by discussing the 2014 Federal Budget. Source: Choice [[10]]

Essentially, the barriers of print and broadcast journalism are rendered useless in a society where online discussion through social media opens up the conversation between media professionals and their audience. With more people actively discussing news through social media the future of social media for news journalism is more consumer input on news.

24 hour news age

News media corporations are feeling the pressure of breaking news and round the clock news coverage. Journalists are forced to accelerate the traditional journalistic process because people now want real time information. Social media provides an excellent platform for breaking news, allowing for the timely distribution of information. Advancements in technology, allowing instant access to information has resulted in an expectance of instant news updates. In particular, use of mobile handset devices such as mobile phones, tablets and mp3 players have increased in popularity which has improved people’s access to the internet and online material. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) documented the growing number of mobile handset subscribers, revealing that in the space of a year from 2012 to 2013, 2.89 million people had connected their device to an internet service provider. [[12]] mobilehandsetsubscribersaustralia

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics [[12]]

In addition to ease of access through mobile handset devices, 24 hour news is also necessary in instance of breaking news, particularly for events of a higher impact to the online community. For example, the Boston Bombings in April 2013 which was followed globally by news media [[13]]. The issue with the 24 hour news age is that journalists are denied sufficient time to fact check which can inevitably result in errors and the distribution of incorrect information. The Boston Bombing also acts as a case study of how a lack of fact checking can be detrimental to the credibility of a journalist and the outlet they represent. The Boston Bombings was accompanied by a frenzy of information online due people wanting information. News companies were in competition with one another to get the edge on the situation and know more about what was happening. This competition in addition with the need for constant news updates led to rumours and false information published through social media. One significant example being CNN falsely posted on their Twitter account that authorities had made an arrest, claiming that “Law enforcement sources” had released this information [[14]].

cnnincorrect

Source: Twitter [[14]

bostonpolice

Source: Twitter [[15]]

Boston Police dispelled the rumour and it became obvious that CNN had erroneously reported the information. The most likely reason for this mistaken is that the pressure to provide breaking news to the public whilst remaining ahead of their competition meant that CNN journalists failed to cross reference their sources. In light of the social media disaster that followed the Boston Bombings, US President Barrack Obama observed that “In this age of instant reporting and tweets and blogs, there’s a temptation to latch on to any bit of information, sometimes to jump to conclusions.”[[16]] Essentially social media has allowed for simple news distribution but it’s the responsibility of journalists to utilise the resource correctly.

Barack_Obama_at_Las_Vegas_Presidential_Forum

Source: Center for American Progress Action Fund [[16]]

Social media is already so deeply embedded into modern life that it’s inevitable the journalism industry will have to adapt to newer methods of communication. People are using social media and in order to reach an online audience, news media must pursue the masses. The introduction of social media into the way the journalism industry distributes information has altered the way people consume news media. The future of news journalism is online and social media is the ideal platform to engage people.

Word count: 1,579

 Link to Shorthand: http://app-qut.shorthand.com/export/4a248ad0e1704c82989898992140c23b/index.html

References

[[1]] http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/social-media?q=social+media (Accessed May 11, 2014)

[[2]]http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-02-04/facebook-turns-10-the-social-network-in-numbers/5237128 (Accessed May 11, 2014)

[[3]] http://stateofthemedia.org/2013/digital-as-mobile-grows-rapidly-the-pressures-on-news-intensify/5-more-people-getting-news-on-social-networks/  (Accessed April 8, 2014)

[[4]] http://blog.newswhip.com/index.php/2014/04/biggest-facebook-publishers-march-2014 (Accessed May 19, 2014)

[[5]] https://www.facebook.com/BuzzFeed (Accessed May 20, 2014)

[[6]] http://blog.wan-ifra.org/2013/11/28/social-media-jobs-to-become-obsolete-within-10-years-report (Accessed April 7, 2014)

[[7]] https://www.qut.edu.au/study/short-courses-and-professional-development/short-courses/introduction-to-social-media (Accessed May 20, 2014)

[[8]] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mSIdcDDKLAU (Accessed May 9, 2014)

[[9]]http://www.saffo.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/essay_farewellinfo.pdf (Accessed May 21, 2014)

[[10]] http://www.choice.com.au/media-and-news/consumer-news/news/2014-budget-reaction.aspx (Accessed May 21, 2014)

[[11]] https://reutersinstitute.politics.ox.ac.uk/fileadmin/documents/Publications/fellows__papers/2009-2010/JOURNALISM_IN_THE_AGE_OF_SOCIAL_MEDIA.pdf (Accessed May 21, 2014)

[[12]] http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/8153.0Chapter8December%202013 (Accessed May 19, 2014)

[[13]] http://www.globalresearch.ca/boston-marathon-bombing-timeline/5345924 (Accessed May 21, 2014)

[[14]] https://twitter.com/cnnbrk/statuses/324582239134416897 (Accessed May 21, 2014)

[[15]] https://twitter.com/bostonpolice/statuses/324591574807891968 (Accessed May 21, 2014)

[[16]] http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/04/19/statement-president (Accessed May 21, 2014)

[[17]] http://www.flickr.com/photos/7513136@N05/452460338/ (Accessed May 22, 2014)

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