My colleague and I wrote a joint article on the evolution of journalism.
By : Allana J. Barefield and Prinsey Walker
Paul Revere rode a horse yelling, “The British Are Coming, The British Are Coming.” The fastest way to warn the American Colonists that British soldiers were on American soil. Now, a person can pull out their phone and learn that Beyoncé is pregnant with twins.
Change occurred in cellular technology in the 2000s, which created a new communication platform for society -social media. This technological evolution, that began five years ago, changed the news cycle and the role of the journalists.
Social media no longer sitting around for the evening newscast but creating it themselves, said Janella Newsome, news manager of Xavier University of Louisiana and media relations. Majority of the time, they are the ones beating out the journalists. “As a result, traditional news organizations, as well as traditional sharing methods, are suffering,” Newsome said.
“Now journalists are forced to use social media to gather information, find sources and engage with audiences.”
The Good and The Bad
Newsome said the world is changing. Everyone wants everything fast which is why social media is thriving. “Social media provides; speed or immediacy. However, some journalists believe social media undermines traditional journalistic values. The concerns regard accuracy, the need for verification and the loss of control over the information,” she said.
Newsome believes fast is not always better.
“This is a time where society is more knowledgeable about the news but one problem about social media is the accuracy, ” she said, “Since anyone can post on Twitter or Facebook it doesn’t mean that it’s the truth. It’s important to check their facts before the reader can take the message into account.”
Some journalists find “man on the street reporting” to be a good start to creating the story. Gregory Lee, the Editorial Director for NBA.com said, “Social media is helpful because it gives you an outline. It is like a first draft, before writing the story.”
Shaun King, civil rights activist and senior justice writer for the New York Daily News, said inaccurate reporting is the hardest news to retract. “Lies spread quickly, but when the truth comes out, the truth never becomes viral,” King said.
Beyond guaranteeing that news is accurate, journalists have the task of controlling their stories on several sites. Having all of these social media platforms available creates a competitive environment for journalists. But at the same time journalists know what they are doing since it’s their job. “It’s all about who can disseminate the information the quickest, but accuracy has to take priority,” Newsome said.
Multiple social networking sites help King amass a large and loyal readership. “My articles are the most read in my newspaper because of my social networking,” King said. “You wouldn’t know me without social media.” The activist, who has 624,000 followers on Twitter, writes stories in order to inform readers, not to gain fame. “Those are real people, I don’t see them for likes of clicks,” he said.
Going Beyond the Surface
However, though people may click on stories available on their social networking feed that appear to be interesting because of a catchy headline, Lee said that they are not reading the material in depth.
“The goal is to make headlines that draw you to the story,” Lee said. “With social media, you lose depth to stories because people are getting quick takes, instead of getting more in depth or gaining a better perspective of that story.”
For Newsome, who is also an anchor at Channel 4 WWL-TV in New Orleans, she enjoys her job but social media can be a burden. “For instance, when I’m out in the field covering a TV news story, my focus is to gather the facts, conduct the interviews, shoot the b-roll, write the script, get the script approved by the executive producers and then go live,” she said.
“It becomes much more challenging when you have to stop what you are doing to take a picture using a cell phone or shoot :30 secs of video, write copy using 140 characters or less, then post,”she said.
Yet, King enjoys the speed. “Social media has changed my life as a journalist. I don’t have to wait for the print paper to come out. If it’s an emergency, I can share a story in real time.”
From the Paper to 140 Characters
McKenzie Moss, a sophomore Chemistry major at Xavier understands that social media is not always accurate. But because of her busy schedule it is easier to read a tweet in 140 characters or less than read an entire article.
“To be honest, I don’t even read the newspaper. Back at home, the paper is delivered to our door every day and my mom collects it,” Moss said.
Moss is an active Twitter user but knows to fact check what her peers are saying through outlets like “CNN, NYT and FOX, you know the main outlets,” Moss said. From Moss using Twitter religiously, it opened her eyes to another world. “Without social media I probably wouldn’t have known about police brutality was happening so frequently,” she said.
“Having videos of Alton Sterling or Sandra Bland cases gets on social media and reaches the country within minutes, the videos hold these officers accountable for their actions,” Moss said.
King also found value in social networking because the media platform has the ability to draw attention to everyday action that would never be covered, without video evidence.
“When I was (20 years old) I only heard of police brutality in New York or Los Angeles.” King said, “Now we hear about police brutality wherever it happens.”
Though social media journalism may be inaccurate, too overwhelming for certain journalists, or is the flame that sparks a story for some journalists, King said people have to positively use it in order to impact society.
“It has a lot of power, but you must use it for something good.” King said.