Facebook and Twitter Have Great Reach and Grave Consequences

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Social networking is double edged sword for journalists, even more so than for the average person. It seems like everyone loves Facebook and Twitter. Both sites have millions of users around the world who use them on a daily basis. On the surface they are a fun and easy way to connect with friends and loved ones or to keep up with celebrities or cultural interests. But they have real world impacts, both positive and negative, that are far more significant.

 

Four years ago Iran’s presidential election ended with incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared the victor in a landslide win that was contested by all three of his opponents, as well as thousands of citizens. Over the following weeks protesters filled the streets, despite crackdown by military and police. The media was not allowed to report on any such events, but through Facebook and Twitter the world was shown the truth of what was being done to quell the protesters, as gun fire was broadcast live and in color from people scared for their lives.iPhoneSocialMedia

 

But it’s not all sun shine and roses, as most the time people are focusing on their own lives and interests, perhaps too much. People of all walks of life have seen their careers come to an end due to a lack of discretion on social media. In her article, “13 Controversial Facebook Firings: Palace Guards, Doctors, Teachers and More,” Huffington Post writer Ramona Emerson looks at a number of people who had lost their jobs over comments they made about their boss or their place of business.

 

Not only are journalists no safer from such repercussions than your average employee, but they face even more dangers. Being friends with the wrong person or even failing to report such connections to the right people could bring questions about sources and ethical investigative tactics.

 

Despite all of that, Twitter and Facebook can each be very beneficial tools for reporting the news. As in the case of the aforementioned Iranian Green Revolution, breaking news can be gleamed form twitter, not only from reputable sources, but from trending topics. As Leah Betancourt pointed out in her article “The Journalist’s Guide to Facebook,” social networks can be an invaluable tool for reaching out to communities, groups and sources that one may not otherwise have access to. There’s nothing like knowing exactly how to contact a source one desperately needs to help flush out, or add credibility to, a story.twittermegaphone

 

People in all walks of life must be careful of how much of their private lives they allow the world access to. But these networks have made the world a smaller place, six degrees of separation must be nearly cut in half, and journalists can use these connections to assist their reporting and ability to connect with their audience. However the lure of immediate gratification can be dangerous and journalists must be careful not to let the race to be first impede their responsibility to be right.

 

Breaking a story is enticing and helps a reporter get noticed and notoriety, but blasting incorrect information from a digital megaphone is a quick way to gain notoriety as a bad source and an unreliable “journalist.”

 

Versitile Journalism in the Digital Age

image courtesy of Google Creative Commons

image courtesy of Google Creative Commons

It is difficult to be a journalist in the modern world. Print is quickly going out of fashion, and to stay relevant the average journalist must learn to do be a one man production team in order to provide value to their outlet. For all but the most respected and talented journalists it is no longer enough to seek the truth and report it, the reporter should be able to produce digital content with a full report, video, relevant links and twitter references with hash tag friendly titles and phrases.

Though it is still important for any reporter to keep his ear to the ground and stay on top of breaking newsworthy events, to stay competitive in the shrinking job market, the modern journalist must be able to contribute as much or more commercial value. In his article “It’s Hard Out There for a 21st-Century Future Journalist of Tomorrow,” Renay San Miguel describes a few job listings looking for new reporters. Each describes and ideal candidate as someone who not only has skill and instincts as a journalist, but also someone who has knowledge of computers and web design and who can produce their own content for digital media.

But such expectation can be daunting for aspiring journalist and old hands alike. Many in the field have spent their career, or at least their time in school, dreaming of uncovering stories that could change people’s lives, hoping to speak truth to power and make a difference in the world. Finding out that what matters to their prospective employers is page hits and frequency of posts rather than in depth reporting and hard worked quality pieces.

In her article “A tale of two newsrooms,” Amy Kingsley tells the story of the Las Vegas Sun’s foray into digital media. Despite sharing a brand name with the entity that, through in depth research and careful reporting, brought home the first Pulitzer Prize ever awarded to a Las Vegas newspaper, the on-line site, under the tutelage of Rob Curley, quickly switched formats to quick production of constant new content focused on counting those ever important page views and the lowest common denominator. Reporters who had been proud to work for a media outlet that focused on strong, deep reporting recoiled, and many left, when faced with focusing on traffic fatalities and celebrity gossip.

The news industry is a fickle mistress and capturing the attention of consumers is important to the success of any outlet, but the industry is still trying to find its way with new business models replacing traditional subscriptions and guaranteed readers or viewers. It is easy to fall into the pattern of catchy titles and exciting promos just to get that view, but the more versatile quality journalists can themselves, the more they can control the path the modern news reporting follows. It is important that the most dedicated and talented reporters take learn the skill necessary to control the journey, and not just tag along for the ride.