Before the internet, breaking the news was strictly the job of professionals who had extensive training, access and control of resources that us mere mortals did not. But now, the world of journalism could not be more different. Do you have a smart phone and access to an internet connection? Well, congratulations you could now be a gate-keeper of a wealth of information and knowledge or- simply a pile of poorly researched, inaccurate dribble!
Posting on a website, blog or Facebook page – even writing an email – is a new form of publishing…(social media) enables the amateurisation of communication. To sum up the position: the profession of journalism becomes obsolete because the social media have democratised publishing. (Dimitrov 2014, p.4)
At the end of 2015 there were roughly 12.9 million internet subscribers in Australia, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. The audience is now forgoing the more traditional methods of news in favour of the world of online. News organisations and journalists themselves have been forced to adapt, or simply bust. Our changing requirements as readers, in combination with the saturation of technology is now defining what we are given by the news organisations. Kolodzy (2012, p.1) explains that the youth of today are favouring social media platforms such as Facebook, Google, YouTube, Twitter and Instant messaging as a way to receive news. And as a youth of today (26 is still youthful!!), I would have to agree. My initial sources of news come from updates I see on my Facebook and Twitter news-feeds on my phone.
Alejandro (2010, p.9) explains that the concept of scoops and leads have changed with the development of social media. A journalist’s tips for a story are now coming from the What’s Trending sections of Twitter or Facebook. We as an audience are becoming increasingly impatient, we want our information in real time– forcing journalists to increase their pace ten-fold. We are now fed snippets of information as journalists themselves discover it. The risk of waiting until a full story is formed, is that News outlets may find themselves out-scooped by competitors- or even worse, a member of the general public. How embarrassing!
There have been many instances of social media breaking news before news organisations can even dream of having a full article printed. Check out my podcast for some notable examples of this.
So what’s the big deal?
There are a number of concerns when we look to social media as a reliable news source. We see in the above graphic from Social Media Today, that reporting breaking news in 140 characters or less (Twitter, for example) can be quite limiting when it comes to telling a story. As mentioned earlier, when everyone has access to reporting news on social media, communication can be amateur– so who are we to believe? This has happened many times when we have been fed reports of celebrity deaths that turn out to be nothing but hoaxes. Huffington Post, in their article about journalism changing at the hands of social media, mention the importance of checking facts.
This new style of ‘citizen journalism’ can be a double edged sword at times and one of the clearest recent examples of this occurred on the site Reddit, as the search for the Boston Bombing suspect was taking place. Because of unchecked facts, a manhunt for the wrong man – who eventually wound up being found dead from an apparent suicide – began. (DeMers, 2013)
The benefits of social media as a news source are simple. Anyone with access to these platforms now has a voice and the potential to report news. It’s a quick and immediate way to release news, and unlike bulky cameras and recording equipment- mobile phones can go just about anywhere.
Sambrook (cited in Alejandro 2010, p.42) says ‘Bearing witness is a journalist’s job. This is something technology cannot provide’. Despite the positives of social media as a breaking news form, we must not lose sight of the value of a journalist’s credibility.
Dimitrov, R 2014, ‘Do social media spell the end of journalism as a profession?’, Global Media Journal: Australian Edition, Vol. 8 Issue 1, p1-16. 16p
Australian Bureau of Statistics 2015, Internet Activity, Australia, December 2015, cat. no. 8153.0, Australian Bureau of Statistics, retrieved 23 August 2016, < http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/8153.0/ >
Kolodzy, J 2012, ‘What’s old is new, what’s new is old’, ‘Practicing Convergence Journalism’, Routledge, p.1&5
Alejandro, J 2010, ‘Journalism in the age of Social Media’, Reuters Institute Fellowship Paper, University of Oxford, retrieved 23 August 2016, retrieved from : < https://reutersinstitute.politics.ox.ac.uk/sites/default/files/Journalism%20in%20the%20Age%20of%20Social%20Media.pdf >
Morejon, R 2012, ‘How Social Media is Replacing Traditional Journalism as a News Source’, Social Media Today, weblog post, retrieved 23 August 2016, <http://www.socialmediatoday.com/content/how-social-media-replacing-traditional-journalism-news-source-infographic >
DeMers, J 2013, ‘How Social Media Is Supporting a Fundamental Shift in Journalism’, The Huffington Post, weblog post, retrieved 23 August 2016, < http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jayson-demers/how-social-media-is-suppo_b_3239076.html >
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