Monday, 30 September 2013

Social Media's Impact on Journalism

With the growing use of social media to report news the consumer perception of real time news is changing - people now expect to receive news instantaneously and expect constant updates of developments. This is significantly influencing the direction and practice of journalism. The availability of these online blogs and social media networks has changed the way that journalists are able to operate and it can be a valuable tool aiding journalists in their newsgathering, audience engagement and it can act as another platform for content.


It is important to note that social media and blogs are not replacing journalism, but they are adding another layer of information to existing news sources. One key way that social media has changed how journalists approach the news is through helping journalists in newsgathering and crowdsourcing. This has helped them to collect more material on news stories and has provided access to a wider range of voices who are able to tell their own stories and opinions on the matter. Social media also helps journalists to source eyewitnesses quickly, as people are keen to tweet or post about interesting things they have witnessed to tell their friends about what they saw. This can be a significant benefit making it easier for journalists to track down those who might have a first-hand account of an event.

However, this also means that in some cases journalists are having to compete with the average citizen for breaking news as sites, such as Twitter, are increasingly being used as a source of news and a way to spread news by the younger generations. Furthermore, journalists still need to check, verify and evaluate news claims found on social media before they report on them.



The demand for instant news stories has changed the way that journalists traditionally function. For example, when the bombs exploded at the finish line of the Boston marathon in April 2013, many of the members of staff of the local news team – the Boston Globe - were actually running in the marathon or were already covering it live. The changing consumer perception of news and the desire for real-time updates has encouraged journalists to step into their roles in situations like this, live-tweeting from the scene and updating readers with vital information on the events. Twitter has even created a new system, released yesterday, that reflects the way that emergency news can instantly be relayed to a large audience in times of need. Twitter Alerts enables public institutions to send out emergency alerts via text message and push notifications – “a new feature that brings us one step closer to helping users get important and accurate information from credible organizations during emergencies, natural disasters or moments when other communications services aren’t accessible”.


One of the greatest positives of social media for journalists is the way that it has the power to engage with greater audiences. Social media is able to move information quickly among a large group of people, and can provide a valuable two-way engagement with the audience, changing significantly how journalists talk to their audiences and listen to the audience’s response. This can mean that local news is able to transform into international news very quickly as social media has the power to transfer information across the world instantaneously.

The power of social media to expand audience engagement can also be seen through the way that it can act as a platform for content to redirect viewers to branded news sites. For instance the Telegraph has detected a significant upsurge in the importance of social networks as a form of distribution with over 8 per cent of all page views to the Telegraph Online now as a result of recommendations in networks like Digg, Facebook and Twitter. Established journalists may also choose to utilise social media because it can act as another way to distribute their content which they have researched but been unable to use in TV or radio – this way it ensures that their hard work and research does not go wasted.

What do you think?

Do you think social media has changed the way journalists report the news?