Of all the industries that have been had their paradigm shifted by social media perhaps journalism is the leader in the clubhouse.
Look at the world through eyes of an information gatherer. Google has taken the search for information from pounding the pavement to pounding the keyboard. Twitter provided instant updates and quotes from sources that would otherwise be unavailable. Smart journalists have learned that social media is a strong tool in following and developing stories.
And, for the most part, that level of access is a good thing for all of us.
I bring this up because of two stories that have popped up in the last week concerning social media and the news.
First, The Washington Post has decided that their reporters cannot engage in a dialogue with their readers on, well, pretty much anything. The reporters are allowed to listen but they cannot take advantage of the two-way features of social media. Those conversations must flow up to the editorial level. Now, there does not seem to be a policy covering two-way social communication between a reporter and actual or potential sources…presumably because you have to talk to newsmakers to get information.
The Post cites the usual suspects of journalistic integrity, objectivity, etc., etc, blah, blah, blah.
Please. ALL journalism is affected by some level of personal bias. The simple fact of choosing what is or is not news reflects a personal bias. What I might find interesting is not necessarily what you do and if you’re the reporter you have just decided what is news.
I an oversimplifying to make a point. The Post’s decision further insulates their reporting staff from the people they are writing for! To not allow their reporters to respond to comments on their own story is a missed opportunity and shows a lack of transparency.
This situation comes just before the posting last week on the Journalistics blog about the Top 25 newspapers on twitter. The far and away leader is the legendary newspaper of record – The New York Times – with a following of 2,668,948!
To put that into perspective – that is more that TWICE the number of people who buy a copy of the daily newspaper.
If we extrapolate, that means people are more likely to find out what is going on via the NY Times in 140 characters or less than by getting their hands covered with newsprint. And, once they get their update they are free to search for more information anywhere they want – potentially bypassing the Times (and their advertisers) completely. All the news that’s fit to tweet.
Aren’t you glad you’re not in the newspaper business?
As social media grows it becomes more mainstream. It is rapidly achieving utility status.
And, it’s only a matter of time before the news business looks something like this:
Social Media Specialist