How Social Media Is Transforming Journalism

I started my career as a journalist in a rural weekly newspaper. For six years, I attended municipal council meetings, local theatre productions and covered the work of our regional politicians. I would sometimes work 60 hours a week, writing approximately 10 to 15 articles a week to fill 28 pages in a newspaper that sometimes had 2 people on staff. Most of the time, it was only me. The work was hard but every week, when all the local newspapers were published, I would compare my work to what the other journalists did. Who had the best quote, the best photo, the best story angle.

I eventually left that business and became Communications Officer for the City of Clarence-Rockland. In my work, I now have to work with the new generation of journalists. At the beginning, I thought they were lazy for not taking any notes and relying on their phones to record interviews. They also did their research online while “in my time” the phone book was my best friend.

 With time, I started to notice that journalists would promote their stories on social media and interact with people. People did not recognize journalists by their photos and byline anymore, they could now have conversations with them in real time. In his article Three Major Ways Social Media is Changing Journalism, Kurt Wagner ’12, Senior Editor, Social Media, Recode, mentions that it is getting more “personal” with journalists now being able to promote themselves and their work.

During a conversation, a reporter friend of mine once explained that his salary was partly based on social media clicks and website clicks. Since he worked for a tabloid-style newspaper, he was always looking for more stories, titles and photos that were shocking. To be frank, he did not really like that newspaper nor the type of stories he had to write and promote on social media.

Another way I noticed that social media is changing journalism is the speed with which stories are being published. People do not have to wait for the newspaper or news bulletin to get their news; they can consume it on Facebook or Twitter as soon as it is published. Unfortunately, the fact that everybody now has a smart phone makes it easier for individuals to photograph and publish events without putting them in context first. It seems that nobody wants to be right anymore, everybody wants to be first.

This lack of rigour combined with how effortless it is to publish content on social media made it easier for fake news to worm its way into our lives. Sometimes fake news is obviously satirical and is meant to entertain.  On the other hand, other times individuals publish fake news to fulfill an agenda and, more dangerously, create panic. To help people develop their critical thinking, Library and Archives Canada recently published a nice visual on how to identify fake news.  

Source : Library and Archives Canada

I do not think that journalists are lazy anymore. Once their news item is filed, their work continues on social media. Let me know how else, good or bad, you think social media is changing journalism.

Twitter : Journalism: a changing profession thanks to social media. #journalism #news #fakenews

Facebook : A former reporter reflects on how social media is changing journalism.

4 thoughts on “How Social Media Is Transforming Journalism

  1. I started a news website in Central Ontario in 2007 at a time when many media outlets were struggling to understand what having an online presence meant. I was also one of the first ones to launch heavily into social media. The rise of social media has had a considerable effect on journalism, with reporters being forced to keep one eye on their Twitter feed to get stories. It also means that everyone can be a “reporter”, sharing photos and write ups about what they see. The problem being that they don’t have the right experience, meaning they’re usually sharing their biases along with their content. Social media can be used as a starting point for journalism but people have to be able to dig deeper in order to get the whole story.

  2. I have a friend who was a journalist with a small group of community papers. He is extremely active on social media and using these channels has enabled him to build his own following, as well as a network of people willing to give him tips and ideas on new stories. He was also able to promote his stories through his channels.

    Recently, those papers closed. However, the connections he made on social media and in the community continued. He is now reporting on community matters independently and on his own channels, and in the process of starting up a new web-based community paper. Without social media, none of that would have been possible.

  3. the visual from Library and Archives Canada is really interesting. I always wondered how to really identify fake news as it is anywhere nowadays. A very interested thing you said about old ways and new ways journalism and I agree that most of the times we do not believe in the new way to do things, as an advertiser I witness this everyday and do my own homework if I should adapt or not.

  4. I found your perspective as someone who has been in the journalism industry long enough to see its evolution to be very insightful and interesting! I think social media presents an interesting challenge for journalists. It’s easier than ever for your work to gain publicity, but it also makes you more vulnerable to criticism online and you are subjected to a more public backlash if the story is not well received.

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