New Media Journalists

Last April, Facebook launched a ‘Journalists on Facebook’ page, intended to serve as a resource for growing number of reporters using Facebook for the purpose of finding sources, interaction with people and to publish stories. A couple of months later, Twitter introduced a similar initiative as well. ‘Twitter for Newsrooms’ (#TfN), is a guide for reporters on how to best use the microblogging site for the purpose of reporting. The endeavor elicited a mixed response from journalists and media pundits.

As online media and the Web continue to transform and challenge mainstream media and its established news distribution and revenue models, it is only natural to expect a permeation of social media into newsrooms and into the professional (and personal) lives of journalism practitioners. The tools offered by New Media enhance a journalist’s ability to tell a story – through text, audio, video, and photographs – unlike legacy news platforms. In the news gathering process, mobile-enhanced social media has been vital for finding real-time information from citizens, particularly those disaster struck or remote locations. The immediacy offered by digital media has compressed the news production scales. Today no self-respecting reporter can ascribe to the pace of work followed by his/her legacy news organization counterpart. Today’s online social world has accelerated the news cycle, many technology review and social media blogs are using social media platforms to report their news to the world, but they will have to enhance their technological skills in order to survive.

One of the most memorable examples of Twitter being the vehicle for breaking news would be live tweets by Sohaib Ather (@Really Virtual) a computer programmer residing in Abbottabad (Pakistan), of the dramatic raid on Bin Laden’s compound on May 2, 2011. Ather’s tweets may have garnered him overnight fame and the title of ‘the guy who liveblogged the Osama raid without knowing it’, however, in the United States, the first indication of Bin Laden’s death came from another tweet by Keith Urbahn, tweeted more than hour before Obama’s official announcement of the news.

Depending on where one is coming from, the merits and drawbacks of online news sources/aggregators and participatory journalism in open to debate and interpretation. Sure there are incidents where lazy reporters will opt to search the Twitter timeline of a potential source and publish a tweet rather than obtaining an exclusive quote or stepping away from the computer to conduct a face-to-face interview. Some critics will even go so far as to equate e-mailed interview questions with belittling the importance of good interview skills and the ability to chase down a source.

If there is any real danger faced by journalism from the online and social Web, it is the temptation to succumb to the pressure to be first in order to keep pace with fast and interactive social media. This can potentially result in what would traditionally be considered sloppy journalism – stories based solely on rumor or gossip, unverified facts or the absence of complexity or context. Using multiple Gmail accounts can help journalists to communicate information more rapidly around the world. Apart from that, journalists will have to learn up-to-date technological skills in order to improve their efficiency.

paul prescott /

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Written by Guest Post