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Faett 1 Allison Faett Dr.

Wood Intro to Journalism December 4, 2013 The Role of Social Media in Journalism In todays world, it is impossible for anyone to escape the relentless process of change (Kaul 126). Technological advances in todays society have begun a fundamental shift in journalism from traditional journalism to nontraditional journalism. The key to this fundamental shift are the social media sites that have become extremely popular worldwide. The easy access in communicating with people all across the world allows constant updates, which are frequently made by social media users. Individuals dependence on technology has risen in the past few years because of the continuous growth and advancements made on the products being sold. The dependence on technology has also made people dependent on it for receiving information regarding almost anything at all; however it is not smart to believe everything that is posted on the Internet. New technology is reshaping the most fundamental aspects of our communication system, and we are now forced to reconsider our most basic assumptions about how that system will be used to gather and to distribute the news (Kaul 127). Unfortunately, this fairly new widespread communication technique does have the potential to question the credibility of social media. Users must realize that there is a possibility that the news and information being shared on their social media sites may not entirely be true. With that being said, my research question is: Is social media beginning to affect the news and how it is being distributed effectively or ineffectively, and why? I am going to analyze several different scholarly articles that discuss the development of social media in journalism and how it affects the outcome on what is being

Faett 2 reported, as well as interviewing editors and writers from different newspapers and asking their input on the situation. In social media we find the ultimate solution: in the solitude of our homes we can connect to the world with a speed and scope that two generations ago people could only dream of (van Kooten Niekerk 15). The current shift from traditional journalism to nontraditional journalism has much to do with the expansion in technology. Before the boom in technology, there was a limitation in receiving information about any particular situation or subject. However, people are now able to look up almost anything they want in only a matter of seconds. Not only do people have the ability to collect information and data on what interests them, but they now also have the ability to participate in the discussion and provide their own feedback. A new type of journalism is beginning to surface and people are calling it citizen journalism. Citizen journalism is described as, A form of journalism where private citizens gather and report the news (van Kooten Niekerk 16). The only way citizen journalism can exist and function properly is if these journalists are provided with a wide-ranging network in which their ideas and opinions can be shared (van Kooten Niekerk 16). Therefore, the most appropriate and beneficial network for this type of journalism is social media because of its broadness and its capability of sharing. Technology and the Internet has provided citizens with the ability to voice their opinions about occurring issues. Recently, it has become more common for news stations to broadcast users posts and videos on the air for further input on the situation being discussed. Receiving additional information from the general public allows people to see others perspectives on a certain issue, resolving in a better understanding of what is taking place. Some believe that a journalistic revolution has come about due to Web technology; and buzz words such as networked journalism and communal media demonstrate this revolution that is taking place (Kaul 128). The revolution gives average people the responsibility to inform others on what is going on around the world, offer their opinions on the matters being discussed, and counter

Faett 3 mainstream media in virtual venues (Kaul 128-129). This type of responsibility that is given to citizens provides a much broader perspective on issues, as well as providing additional information that may not have been reported, but is significant to the story. Although this type of journalism has many benefits, it also has disadvantages. A major restraint that citizen journalism faces is how it is mostly never neutral (van Kooten Niekerk 17). Basically everything that these journalists report are typically only on issues or topics that intrigue them. Not being forced to investigate and report on issues that may not concern them gives people the ability to report only on things that provide interest to them. Due to the flexibility in this category of journalism, most citizen journalists are mainly going to share and report only on matters that they feel they need to, and not just because they can (van Kooten Niekerk 17). Feeling the need to report on something shows that the person is passionate about the matter, and that passion will generally lead to a prejudice view on what is being discussed. Journalists who have a bias on whatever they are reporting effects the credibility of the content being shared, and without credibility people may not take the information seriously. An article published at the International Communication Association states that essentially no experimental research exists in regards to measuring credibility in social media (Measuring Social Media Credibility 3). With the lack of actual evidence on what is being reported, and whether it is credible or not makes it very difficult to determine if the information being examined is completely truthful. Therefore, without providing reliable sources to back up a story could potentially make viewers skeptical on what they are reading. This skepticism may not be entirely bad, because without it people may believe something that is actually false. It is believed that the solution to this problem lies within the readers. Before sharing a story written by a citizen journalist, the reader should do their best to verify the information, and by doing so it will create less confusion (van Kooten Niekerk 18). Although verification on reported information may be challenging to come across or even impossible at times, if the reader is able to confirm it then they should.

Faett 4 Throughout the past few years social media sites have begun to take over the Internet due to their immense popularity. Typically everyone of all ages these days have at least one social media site to their name. The top two social media sites that seem to stand out from the rest are Facebook and Twitter. Users from these sites are able to constantly be updated, whether it is about their family, friends, or what is taking place in their community or around the world. A major contributor to this fast pace communication system is the development of smart phones and their ability to inform people on almost whatever they wish to know (Kaul 126). The world is always progressing and changing, especially when involving technology; therefore the way in which people obtain information must be adjusted to the way they live their lives. Without making this adjustment individuals may not be correctly informed on what is occurring in the world, causing misunderstandings and distorted views of reality. Traditional journalism involves the use of actual printed material, but with the increase of Internet use, print journalism has decreased. This decline in print journalism is drastically shown by the continuous drop of print newspaper sales (Kaul 126). Instead of subscribing to a paper and actually picking it up to read, with just a click of a button people are able to receive the same information in a faster, easier way. An article posted on the Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media discusses the social media site, Twitter, and its reoccurring link to current journalism. Observations have shown that this particular social media has the ability to alter journalism, however it is still unclear whether the alteration will be positive or negative. In the article, a study was conducted in order to better understand Twitter use in relation to journalism. The purpose of the study was to locate patterns in journalist-audience interactions on Twitter and evaluate them (Larsson 135). The studys main focus was on the 2011 Swedish talk show, Hbinette. During the seven consecutive weeks of airing, the show began to interest the public eye; and the interest generated discussion among Twitter users, and as a result commentary regarding the show was posted and shared. Methods, such as collecting hashtags and retweets about the show were used in order to effectively and properly combine and analyze the

Faett 5 social networking data. Although the world is full of technology, the results found that people are still more drawn to the traditional journalist (Larsson 141). These results indicate that people do not fully trust the new form of journalism, and would rather rely on the more credible, traditional form. The Daily American is a newspaper located in Somerset, Pennsylvania. Due to the expansion of technology, the paper has also created a reliable website in which readers can view and obtain the same news that is provided in the paper. I spoke with the editor of the Daily American, Brain Whipkey, regarding credibility in social media and how it affects whatever is being reported. He began by explaining how social media has actually helped newspapers, because they allow them to reach more people than ever before. He states, When people learn about a news event on social media, they will search for the newspaper in that area (Whipkey 2013). With the well-known and common use of social media, it is not surprising that it generates publicity for whatever is being talked about. Whipkey also reported that the paper uses the social media sites, Twitter and Facebook in order to promote the stories published in the Daily American. This technique allows people other than the papers regular consumers to view the stories, and as a result help increase the number of their readers. We look at sharing story links similar to someone sharing their newspaper with a friend while saying you should read this story (Whipkey 2013). Ultimately, Whipkey believes that because of social media, the Daily American has been able to better promote their name and as a result expand their audience. He did not specifically touch on the credibility of social media, but his positive attitude toward social media shows that he and the newspaper stand by it. The second person I interviewed was Kristopher Smith and he was the editor for the Butler Eagle, Trib Total Media, The Pittsburgh Tribune Review, Washington Examiner, The Journal Newspapers, and was a staff writer for The Oil City Derrick/Franklin News. His vast variety of experience gave me a great outlook on credibility in social media and how it affects whatever is being reported. Smith began by stating, Social media has wholly transformed the way news is gathered and disseminated. Needless

Faett 6 to say, this is a double-edged sword for professional journalists (Smith 2013). Mentioning Twitter and Facebook, Smith agrees that these sites allow journalists to get the news out quicker than ever and allow them to interact with their audience like never before. Before social media came about, journalists had limitations in discussing the content of their stories with readers; however, with the ability to easily interact with their audiences they are able to further their knowledge on the situations they are reporting on and also receive outsider opinions. On the other hand, he says that these sites have also increased the likelihood of reporting facts before they are properly sourced and confirmed. In fact, social media has blurred the lines that constitute what it actually means to be a professional journalist (Smith 2013). Sharing a prime example of both the qualities and dangers presented by social media, Smith discussed what happened nearly a year ago during the coverage of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School. He explains how journalists and media organizations on the ground were able to communicate directly with their audience, providing almost immediate coverage of events as they occurred, This provided a hungry public with a constant flow of information (Smith 2013). Not only did it offer the audience instantaneous information regarding the tragedy, but it also provided the audience with a chance to share their thoughts on the events of that tragic day, not just with the media, but with each other. Allowing the people to obtain the facts about the crisis and having the capability of conversing with one another made the public more aware of what was taking place. Unfortunately, there were negative aspects about the way the news was being distributed via social media as well. The free-flowing nature of social media also allowed a bunch of pretty major mistakes, not only by individual journalists but also by entire news organizations (Smith 2013). The mistakes were most notably in the case of the shooters mother who was originally identified as a teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary, which led to much speculation about the shooters motives. Not only did reporters announce this falsified information, but they also initially identified the shooter as his brother. Of course, in time it became apparent that the shooters mother had no connection to the school, despite the fact that the

Faett 7 opposite had become gospel on social media (Smith 2013). As soon as the false reports on the Sandy Hook catastrophe were announced, the public made it their duty to post and converse about it on their social media sites. This incident ended up resulting in even more confusion when these reports were later declared as untruthful. Another example Smith gave about how social media is changing the news gathering process occurred this past week when the movie star Paul Walker died. According to Smith, the celebritys death was first reported not by local cop reporters, but by his Facebook page (Smith 2013). This type of situation shows how rapid news spreads due to social media sites and the popularity of them. Smiths extensive background and knowledge in the field of journalism makes him and his commentary about the matter very reliable. He believes that although there are positive aspects that come with social media being infused with journalism, there are also negative aspects such as receiving and sharing incorrect information. The journalism landscape is constantly changing, with new technologies and mediums redefining the relationship between the news media and the public (Kaul 126). Social media has caused a widespread transition from traditional journalism to nontraditional journalism, and has affected the news and how it is being distributed in both an effective and ineffective way. Involving the general public in current issues and allowing them to take part in discussion has the ability to be beneficial, yet it also as the ability to negatively affect the outcome of a story. People must be aware that social media users are not the only people who make errors in what they post, professional journalists do as well. Jumping to conclusions and automatically believing that what is being reported in the news or posted on social media sites are true is a mistake and should be avoided, especially with the instantaneous and constant updates made on sites such as Twitter and Facebook. Ultimately, people are going to believe what they want to believe, but by stepping back and reviewing the information that is being published before running to conclusions should effectively help the outcome of the story. Social medias credibility is not always unreliable, however everyone and anyone has the right to post whatever they wish; and

Faett 8 without credible sources to back up the information, peoples initial thoughts should not be that it is accurate.

Faett 9 Works Cited Kaul, Vineet. Journalism In The Age Of Digital Technology. Online Journal Of Communication & Media Technologies 3.1 (2013): 125-143. Communication & Mass Media Complete. Web. 16 Oct. 2013 Larsson, Anders Olof. Tweeting The Viewer--- Use Of Twitter In A Talk Show Context. Journal Of Broadcasting & Electronic Media 57.2 (2013): 135-152. Communication & Mass Media Complete. Web. 23 Sept. 2013 Smith, Kristopher. Personal interview. 1 Dec. 2013. van Kooten Niekerk, Gauwain. Citizen Journalism: How To Encourage Critical Reading And Viewing?. Media Development 1 (2013): 15-18. Communication & Mass Media Complete. Web. 16 Oct. 2013. Whipkey, Brain. Personal interview. 2 Dec. 2013. "Measuring Social Media Credibility: A Study On A Measure Of Blog Credibility." Conference Papers -International Communication Association (2011): 1-30. Communication & Mass Media Complete. Web. 3 Dec. 2013.