Can Social Media and the Journalism Industry Coexist?

June 29, 2011


Each morning when I open browser, I immediately open my top three news websites of choice and wade into the sea of Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and so forth. Seconds later, I grab my blessed iPhone 4  to check my Twitter, receive CNN mobile push notifications and shake for an updated Facebook newsfeed.

The truth is, I’m a victim of the machine, but what’s so wrong with that?  To some, the answer is “a lot.” I counter that with an “absolutely nothing” along with some righteous fist shaking.

Generations of humans have been concerned with riddling out the most effective mode of information exchange. As a result the world now has near-immediate news reporting. But now the journalism industry has to instill as much trust in its readership as they have in the journalism industry.

Clay Shirky argues, “Members of the former audience…can now also be producers and not consumers. Every time a new consumer joins this media landscape a new producer joins as well.”
Those on the outside of the industry can now tweet their opinions on a new political candidate without an editor checking for bias.  With a simple “#election2012” added to this opinion, thousands of news junkies can read this opinion and absorb the questionable “facts” a tweeter posts.

Here is where the mutual trust comes in. We, the tweeters of the world need to know how to question and check facts we read, we do still want to look to news programs and candidates speeches. Luckily, this can be done by simply adding a tab and typing into a search engine.  

Reciprocally, professional journalists need to trust that we -- to be blunt -- are not stupid. They need to trust that people have the capacity to formulate their own opinions which will likely be informed by a combination sources.

NBC White House Correspondent and avid tweeter, Chuck Todd, realizes that social media increases the ability for those outside of the industry to become influential. Unlike many, Todd embraces the change, positing that “Essentially, everyone has the ability to become influential. The world is flat. Everybody has built-in advantages. The built-in advantages that the mainstream media used to have are disappearing. It doesn’t mean we don’t still have some advantage — branding, access to stories, eyeballs.”

Overall, people need to realize that the journalism industry is one built on constant change, and it’s time to adapt to the inevitability of social media, or ship out. In no time at all, I’m sure journalists will be faced with more changes and the twittersphere will seem like the least of their worries.