Social Media And The Changing Face Of Journalism

By Lauren @BubbleJobs

If you have recently graduated with a journalism degree, or are thinking of going into journalism, one of the most important things you need isn’t the dreaded shorthand, or media law, it’s actually how to use social media efficiently.

When people first think of journalism, the image that pops into their heads is probably a reporter at the scene of a crime, notepad in hand, trying to track down the local gossip to get the low-down on the latest breaking news.

And while that is true, what’s just as likely is that said journalist will be found trawling Twitter and Facebook for pictures, eye-witnesses and friends and family of the characters in whatever story they’re reporting on.

Social media has completely reshaped the way the media find their news – forget newswires, Twitter is the new newswire. Editors will be more likely to look at their Twitter feed for the latest breaking news rather than wait for the story to drop from an agency.

The London riots were a great example of how quickly news can spread online before it is even reported in the news. Photos were circulating of burning police cars on Twitter, and soon #TottenhamRiots became the top trending topic worldwide.

The news was spreading like wildfire (sorry!) before journalists even had a chance to get to the scene. It soon became clear that the public were feeding news to the journalists, rather than the other way round.

News outlets struggled to keep up with the fast-paced and unpredictable spread of unrest across the country, so the public relied more on real-time updates from Joe Bloggs on Twitter to keep in the loop of what was going on.

So what does all this mean for the new group of bushy tailed and bright eyed graduates hoping to become the next big name in journalism?

Well, take it from Joanna Carr, editor of BBC Radio 4 news show ‘PM’, who said she “wouldn’t hire anybody who doesn’t know how to use Twitter.”

Why spend hours getting doors slammed in your face when you can just speak to people from the safety of the newsroom?

But before you start thinking you’ll never be leaving the office, if you want to be a journalist – you will be out on the scene A LOT. You’ll just be live tweeting at the same time.

One of the most popular types of social media journalism is live tweeting from court rooms. Coverage of the policewomen murderer Dale Cregan’s trial was posted on my feed by at least three different journalists, all of which have thousands of followers and thought it the fastest way of getting information out to the news-hungry online generation.

So, here are my tips for journalists to use social media effectively:

Use social media as a way to find stories, not just to promote your own

While it may be tempting to post link after link to stories you’ve had published (I know how exciting that first byline is!), don’t bombard your followers with self-promotion. Instead, engage with them, read their tweets, join in on scheduled Twitter chats to get a story no one else will find.

online audienceFollow media laws, even online

A mistake even the most experienced journalist will sometimes make, is getting a bit over-excited reporting on breaking news, and forgetting the laws of what is and isn’t reportable. Treat your social media posts the same as you would an article, and make sure to follow to PCC code of practice.

Tread carefully

More likely than not, journalists will use social media to connect with relatives or friends of a victim of an accident or crime, so it’s important to transfer the appropriate etiquette you would use in real life online.

Be sensitive in your approach and try not to come across as an info-grabbing “hack”.

Take fights off the platform

If your approach hasn’t worked and you have angered someone you’ve tried to get information from, take it to direct or private messaging as quickly as possible. If you don’t, you can be guaranteed you’ll have an angry online mob after you who can ruin your reputation in 140 characters.

Live tweet from the scene

In my opinion, the greatest way journalists can use social media is to live tweet from a scene. If it’s court proceedings, you have the right to use your mobile phone to live tweet proceedings – no matter what that pesky court usher tells you. If you’re tweeting from a scene, mix it up. Take pictures on your phone, post short eye-witness quotes, take videos on your phone. The public want short, easy-to-digest pieces of information immediately, and it’s your job to provide them with it.

What do you think? Has social media completely transformed journalism, or do the traditional values still rule all?

Let me know in a comment below or tweet me @BubbleJobs 🙂

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