Social Media Journalism: A Social Responsibility

Priyanka Sachdeva
(Researcher, New Delhi)

Abstract

As more people turn to social media sites for news and information, news organizations respond by using social networks as platforms to deliver content. The presence of a diversity of information offers society access to a range of ideas, expertise, and topics. The paper examines how journalists at leading news organizations are increasingly involving audiences in the way they research and tell stories. This research paper will look at how the media incorporated the use of social media, specifically Twitter, into their reporting practices. The most markedly different aspects of online versus print journalism are the new possibilities for updating, changing, and reshaping news that online publications have brought. Whereas print journalism is mono-linear, from writing, via editing to the printing of a final version, news online can be published, edited, and republished again. It suggests that one of the future directions for journalism may be to develop approaches and systems that help the public negotiate and regulate the flow of awareness information, facilitating the collection and transmission of news.

Introduction

Technology has significantly impacted the ways in which humans communicate and interact not just with each other, but also with their environment. Through internet platforms, such as social media sites like Twitter, Facebook people are able to communicate and interact with strangers across the globe and report on events happening around them in real-time. Stuart Allan (2006)has described the rise of online news as a global journalistic revolution in its own right, with blogging, citizen journalism, and participatory journalism as examples. Others such as Terry Flew (2007) have concluded that the digitization of the media industry has led to new kinds of globally distributed symbolic forms. For almost two decades, the web has changed the world and revolutionized how information is stored, published, searched, and consumed. The ripple effect has spread so wide that it impacts not just businesses and industries but crosses over into politics, medicine, media, and breaches geographical locations, cultural boundaries and ultimately, affects people’s day to day lives.

Media morphosis: Old versus new media

News consumption today is not the same as in the pre-satellite news era when people waited for their morning papers or sat down at an appointed time for the evening news on television. News consumption today is not the same as pre-internet news when people tune in to events happening around the world through 24-hour television news channels. More recently, a growing number of readers, viewers, and listeners are going online for their news. Television, newspapers, and radio are still here but there is growing competition from interactive online media. Breaking down geographic limitations on access to information, the internet – and the world-wide web-based journalism and other communication it makes possible – undermine the historic relationship between the press system and the national community. Morris and Waisbord (2001) observe that transnational forms of political participation have moved to a global public sphere. And as Anthony Giddens (2000) argues, the ‘intrinsically open framework of globalization’ has a natural relationship with democracy, leading many to attach great hopes to the internet’s potential for advancing more engaged and active citizenship around the world.

The developments on the internet in terms of news and journalism lead one to wonder what the main advantages are. The three keywords in the debate about quality online content and the differences between traditional media and the Net will be briefly elaborated hereafter.

  • Interactivity;
  • Personalization, or rather individualization; and
  • Convergence.

When looking at online news, the interactive element seems to be of essential importance. The key to understanding is to see interactivity as a purely audience-related feature. It has not so much to do with the speed of news and journalistic activity – although it does facilitate fast work – it has to do with the fact that online news has the potential to make the reader/user part of the news experience. This can be done through a number of ways: through direct or indirect email exchange between the journalist or staff and the user, through a bulletin board system available on the news site, through a ‘send your comments’ option box underneath each news story or, more recently, through web chat possibilities, even introducing the people who are featured in the story to the users together with the journalist responsible for the piece in an ultimately interactive environment.

The second way is called ‘push’ content delivery, which means asking the individual user to draw up a list of what he or she wants to read and hear about and then delivering this individualized content automatically at any given or even prearranged time right on a computer screen where the user wants it.

Convergence in the context of online journalism vs traditional journalism is the melting of these traditional media forms – (moving) image, text, and sound – in one story told online.

Old media like publishing used to require a printing press. Circulation was limited to a fraction of a geographical location. Broadcasting via radio and television relies on expensive equipment to transmit signals around a country, regionally, or globally. Now, once a user connects to the internet, he has access to a platform that is at once global and free. The new model assumes that the devices themselves are smart. This means that one may propose or explore new models of communication and coordination without needing to get anyone’s permission. An individual with a camera or a keyboard is now a non-profit self-publishing norm. New-media technology is not only having a serious effect because of its impact on established journalism. The way that the bulk of public and commercial media is changing is more important than the emergence of citizen journalism or the independent blogosphere. Together they offer the opportunity to transform the news media into a more open, trustworthy, and useful forum for information and debate. As news becomes non-linear and open-sourced, journalism will change and is changing. This is about more than posting a comment on a blog or sending in a photo to a website.

FICCI-KPMG: Report on Indian media and entertainment in 2015

New Media. The total internet user base in India grew to approximately 214 million by the end of 2014 with almost 130 million going online using mobile devices. Mobile internet users dominated the total internet user base capturing an overall share of 61 percent. With the dramatic growth in mobile usage, content providers and advertisers are seeking opportunities to get their messages across on this preferred medium of the masses. Digital media advertising grew 38 percent faster than any other advertising category. Mobile, social, and video emerged as star categories in advertising owing to the proliferation of smartphones, 3G, and off-deck mobile apps. The absolute number of internet connections was at a record high in 2014 with almost 9percent penetration in social media. India’s potential for social networking seems to be a rise. 41percent of India’s total mobile users are active on social media.

Digitization. Taking the next step the phased progress in digitization has been the stepping stone for the industry’s growth and success, thereby bringing about a paradigm shift in key indicators, particularly within the domains of TV and film sectors.

Journalism and web

The most markedly different aspects of online versus print journalism are the new possibilities for updating, changing, and reshaping news that online publications have brought. Whereas print journalism is mono-linear, from writing, via editing to the printing of a final version, news online can be published, edited, and republished again. The existence of multiple versions of a text might seem simple enough to solve by choosing one of them, usually the last updated version available at the time of data collection, and then submitting it to the scrutiny of our analysis. The converging nature of the new technology the borders between new and old media become blurred and in turn increase competition between information providers and stimulate new distribution ways, like windowing. Consequently, journalistic practices gradually break free from existing media formats, and consequently the (redefinition of) core competencies of journalism will become more important than ever. New journalism is not only online journalism, for example, but technology and technological skills also are not the buzzwords that solely define the tools of the network trade. Journalism, as it can be seen traditionally or classically, is all about giving a critical account of daily events, of gathering, selecting, editing, and disseminating public information – of serving as a resource for participation in the politics and culture of (a democratic) society. This general notion of journalism can be applied to all media. If one accepts the structural changes and developments in journalism and society as outlined above, one can look at the profession with the eye set on defining the competencies of new or ‘network’ journalists.

The emergence of the web, coupled with increasingly affordable and ubiquitous information communication technologies, has helped foster a renewed research interest in awareness systems. One focus of research is awareness systems for use in personal settings, where lightweight, informal communication systems help people maintain awareness of each other (Hindus et al., 2001, Markopoulos et al., 2003). These systems are always on and move from the background to the foreground as and when a user feels the need to communicate. Scholars suggest that awareness systems represent the next step in the evolution of communication technologies that have increased the frequency and amount of information transfer. Instant messaging and mobile phones provide awareness cues about others who are currently online and internet-connected photo frames and robots permit users to display awareness information, either from broadcasts such as the weather or from members of one’s social network. As this technology becomes more affordable, with greater quality and diversity, awareness systems offer tremendous potential for innovation, with a wide range of forms and contexts for transforming the space around us (Markopoulos et al., 2009).

While the current technological landscape shows tremendous promise and presents numerous opportunities for news and its practitioners, there are also potential pitfalls. While social media networks churn out viable leads, there are also a lot of hearsays going on and even hoaxes. More recently, in late April 2010, reports surfaced on the internet that pop star Lady Gaga amputated one of her legs just below the knee in the name of fashion. The story was rapidly tweeted and re-tweeted so that eventually news media outlets took notice of the rumor. Upon verification from Lady Gaga’s record label, the story was found to be untrue and quickly discredited. Social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter as well as web 2.0 applications like blogs and Google have changed the news industry and journalism practices inside out. They present awesome possibilities and at the same time a high risk for errors. The challenges social media and web 2.0 have thrown to news management and journalists have been like nothing seen before. Barriers to entry have been lowered since anyone with a PC, iPhone, or Blackberry can be their own publisher. They can blog, tweet, or Facebook it — anytime, anywhere.

Another issue with news on social media sites is the issues of impartiality. Most of the news that people post on Twitter, Facebook, and blogs are highly opinionated. With these social media sites, everyone has become a journalist. Ethics are fast becoming strange. And of course, you don’t expect bloggers, for instance, to keep to these “strict” professional ethics that we (journalists) are subjected to. Who would take up the responsibility to keep every blogger in check for ethics? It is a “madhouse”, as the saying goes. Everyone says what he or she feels like saying, without fear of intimidation or punishment. You can find examples of blogs on blogspot.com and wordpress.com.

Conclusion

Today, modern journalists need to utilize many of these new tools like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, blogs, etc. in order to gather information, produce material, and engage their audiences in new ways. This new trend has completely revolutionized the way journalists deliver their stories. Social media networks are transforming the way journalists break news. Joshua Bassey, who reports for Business Day observed that he hardly made use of social media to source for stories, but admitted that if he has to, he uses Facebook to chat with newsmakers if they are available online. “I use Facebook minimally, but I will say the benefits of these social media sites to journalists are enormous. Some of the information that would have been difficult to get, I got it with less difficulty from the social networks and I can as well reach out to some people in a position[s] of information, depending on the stories I work on. This would have been difficult, especially when they were not in their offices or even in the country. With the use of social media, I was able to ask them questions and I got instant answers,” he said.

In our view, it is not fruitful though to construct an absolute opposition between the ‘old’ newspaper journalism, as the exclusive platform for political debate within the framework of the nation-state, versus the ‘new’ Internet journalism, as the main vehicle of (post) modern service-driven journalism in the context of a globalizing market economy. Both old and new media provide platforms for political, cultural as well as commercial communication. Therefore the new technologies offer new challenges for democratic communication as well as new threats, but who emphasizes the latter exclusively might well end up defending the privileges of an established profession instead of the importance of a democratic communication system.

According to Sumaila Umaisha, a reporter with the New Nigerian newspaper, social media has brought many opportunities to journalists. He said, “For me as a journalist, I will say social media has been of tremendous benefit to me. Unlike before, I no longer need to go to the library anytime I want to … research; all I need to do is to Google whatever I need. Really, social media is of great advantage to journalists.”

Adamu Ismail of Freedom Radio, however, differed on this. He said social media is really not the best for journalists. “For you to have a story that you can rely on, you need to have a source and it must be trustworthy. But not in the case of these social networks for instance, if I get news from a news agency I can just go and file it, but anybody can write anything and post it on the internet without verifying the authenticity of the story. So, for me, I don’t so much believe or rely on these social networks to source for or gather my news stories,” he said.

Different kinds of journalism online amplify and affect different kinds of journalism offline. Journalism as a whole is changing and the models and argument offered in this paper should be seen as an attempt to better understand these developments. But in total, we are seeing unprecedented growth in the amount of participation on mainstream websites.

References

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