Last night, LEWIS, in partnership with Social Media Club SF (SMCSFO), hosted a panel discussion on Social Media and Journalism. With more and more people using sites like Twitter and Facebook as a primary “breaking news” source, we were curious to learn about social media’s impact on traditional approaches to journalism. How do journalists use social media as a tool? What are the biggest challenges and how have writers adapted to these changes?
To address these questions, an expert panel was invited to the LEWIS San Francisco office to share their thoughts. Panel members included:
- Harry McCracken, Editor at Large, TIME
- Annie Scudder, Editor, SugarInc.
- Sean X Cummings, Writer (Huffington Post, iMedia, New York Times), Founder, SXC Marketing
- Arabella Santiago, Co-Founder, StartupLive.com
- Morgan McLintic, Executive Vice President US, LEWIS PR (moderator)
There were several highlights from the night’s discussion. A few listed below:
1. News Consumption
Social media has changed the way we find, read and share news. With the ability to filter posts, subscribe to feeds and choose which sites to follow, news consumption is now in the hands of the readers.
The panelists agreed that with the rise of social media, online users tend to flock to groups with similar tastes and opinions. In addition, it is easier to select what news to see (and not see) when online, making it more difficult for journalists to reach a larger demographic of people. But regardless, there is also the belief that good content will always be shared, even with the growing use of filters and pre-selected feeds.
2. Journalism Ethics
Social media makes re-posting stories as simple as a click-of-the-mouse, but how much can you re-post, re-tweet or re-blog before the content is no longer yours? Our speakers agreed that anything you create should be worth sharing (more than once). If you do use images or content from social media sources, be sure to ask for permission. It’s not considered stealing if you introduce your readers to the content and reference the original source (even if it may be difficult to find).
3. Reliability and Fact Checking
On social media networks, anyone can publish posts and claim to have cold, hard facts, but are readers being blindsided by lies? Do journalists who gather information from social media accounts fact check?
As professional journalists, our panelists do their best to fact check. If they didn’t, the public and their readers would be the first to call them out on the mistake via social media. It was also pointed out that although many writers do their best to share facts, no one’s truth record is or can be perfect, not even traditional print publications.
4. Influence and Reputation
With social media influence scoring like Klout and Kred gaining popularity, is a journalist’s online reputation important? Does building a personal brand on social media help?
“Online reputation scores are like ego scores, no one looks at it but you,” said Harry McCracken. Building a personal brand online is helpful but not essential. If you don’t enjoy using Twitter, Facebook or Google+ as a journalist, people can tell. Conversations on social media are not something you can force. If your content is good, regardless if you rank in Google or keep a personal brand, your articles will be shared.
So is social media good or bad for journalism?
We had an in-depth conversation about the topic and it seems as though feelings are still mixed on the issue. Regardless, we all agreed that social media is here to stay and will evolve as a platform and tool. From here, the quality of the content can only get better and the access to information, especially through mobile technology, will continue to grow.
What are your thoughts on social media and journalism? Share them below!
We would also like to give a BIG thanks to all the guest panelists and the Social Media Club SF for putting on such a fantastic event.