Monday, January 31, 2011

Social Media WON'T kill the journalism star

It would have been hard for anyone to escape news of the two huge political revolutions from Tunisia and (currently) Egypt taking place. Social media has played a key part in the organisation of these citizen revolutions where commentators and insiders have been live tweeting, organising and spreading word through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and the like.

The effect has been undeniable, and it may not be an exaggeration to say that without social media platforms for the public to communicate with eachother and the outside world, these revolutions may not have taken place.

The reporting of these events has also had to adapt. Sky, BBC, CNN, Fox, Al-Jazeera have all been reporting from journalists on the ground as well as following events on social media platforms, often quoting tweets and updates from politicians and the like. It’s sometimes claimed that social media is now the place to go for news rather than news organisations, and the citizen journalists are the ones  who carry the breaking news.

I’m not completely on board with that theory and believe it’s important to remember where journalism – and the true skill of the journalist – comes to the fore.

Firstly it’s an affront to the work of the professional journalist to think those without knowledge of the art could compare just because they’re able to be first on the buzzer with tweets, follow the right people and retweet the right tweets. Whilst it’s important for a news organisation to be first to break the news, it’s also important to be accurate and to report the actual news rather than speculate and spread rumours.

Most importantly however it underestimates the skill of a quality journalist in investigating the story behind the story. There is no way that a citizen journalist could ever match the experience, investigative power and ability to report of a journalist who talks to the right people, has access to the right influencers and who has the credibility to pass opinion and accurately report a story.

Many journalists are on social media platforms and use them to break stories; this is clearly the way media is moving and that is only right as they will be left behind unless they adapt.

But there is still a need for skillful investigative journalism and reporting.

Social media can add to and enhance that. But it isn’t yet in the position to replace it.

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