have always been told that the best stories don’t happen sitting in the comforts of the newsroom. They happen out in the world, in a hair salon, in a conversation with the bus driver or maybe while walking on the streets. That may be still true but times are changing. More and more news organizations now consider what is trending or happening on Social media.
Just recently, after the second debate of US Presidential elections, many news organizations reported on the activity happening on social media in response to the debate. New York Times reported on ‘”Trump Twitter” in an article on how supporters of Trump reacted when he commented about Clinton being in jail. This is important as more and more news organizations will look to online media activity to report on from time to time.
Research by ING in 2014 studies the impact of social media on news. They interviewed journalists for their use of social media. They found that one-third of journalists didn’t consider information on social media to be reliable. Nevertheless, half of them still used it. Journalists relied on consumer opinions but don’t always check whether those opinions are grounded in facts or not.
The study also showed that journalists tend to alter their behavior on social media. They tend to present their opinions more so even though they are supposed to be objective.
The study also revealed that Dutch journalists were lagging behind in this regard compared to international journalists. This seemed a little vague. Saying international journalists is a very broad category. Are the international journalists from other developed countries or does the category include journalists from dictatorial, non-democratic, and less-developed countries. Journalists in many developing countries like Pakistan and India don’t always use media ethics while reporting online and let their very personal opinions come before their reporting. In many middle-eastern regimes, journalists are not free to report against the wishes of the ruling regimes.
Nevertheless, from whatever sample the study uses, it does point that new reliance on social media has led to less fact-checking.
Another study by Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, shows that major broadcasters and newspapers in UK and USA are looking at the new media to gather information. The study was published soon after the 2009 elections of Iran, where the usage of the social media sites showed the debates people were having online about the elections.
The study points that mainstream media use social media because of making better relationship with users and advertising, bringing in new users and also trying to tell better stories. BBC now encourages its users to contribute content. BBC does verify the content it receives. This crowd sourcing can actually lead to better content.
While this study was conducted in 2009, many changes have taken place in the seven years. But those changes are still grounded on the basics discuss in this study.
What it means for the future is developing tools to verify information in online content and how to better use them. As news organizations see budget cuts, they will resort more and more to social media. This will also give more power to companies like Facebook and Google in managing the news organizations.