Can Old School Journalism Translate to New Age Media?

By You You Zhou | July 7, 2011

twitter, social, media, journalism


After Facebook set up a page for journalists at the beginning of April, Twitter launched its new service ‘Twitter for Newsrooms’ last week. Similar to Facebook's page, the Twitter page includes all the daily practices a journalist should know, including personal branding. It seems these social media companies are trying their best to attract journalists who are native to hashtags or status tags in an effort to provide them with better journalistic tools. 

Anthony Ha from AdWeek describes he content of newsrooms site on Twitter as the following:

“It’s a cross-company collaboration aimed at journalists of different generations, whether they're ‘native to the‘pilcrow’ or "native to the hashtag." The tips and examples offered on the site cover reporting stories, engaging with readers and connecting websites with Twitter.”

The journalism industry has recognized the opportunity to take advantage of social media sites for a number of reasons.

Real-time news tweets provide immediacy, which boosts both the speed of information and verification. Personalized profiles and direct communication with the online audience make journalists more human.  Journalists get news tips and sources by crowdsourcing.  They can also build their brands by sharing immediate information with the public. The public are already on Twitter and Facebook, so when news is published there, their followers will see it. 

Writers everywhere need to accept the fact social media is not the enemy of journalism. Granted there are some unsettling issues with ‘Twitter For Newsrooms,’ especially considering promotion of this service is essentially promotion for Twitter.  When you begin mixing the goals of advertising and the goals of journalism, the question of journalistic integrity is raised.

One question stands out in particular.  How does the process of verification work on Twitter and Facebook, respectively? Since Twitter users have a comparatively lower privacy level (largely due to a lack of necessity) and use more fake profile names, it will be more difficult for journalists to get the right identity of the sources.

A journalist can get overwhelmed by tons of news tweets only to find the most exciting one not real. 

Another issue is how to separate personal from professional? Facebook claims on the ‘Facebook+Journalist’ page that the ‘Page’ function can address the problem. Journalists can create professional pages that viewers can simply click ‘Like’ to follow them without being accepted as friends.

The new tools potentially change the characteristics of the profession. Since Twitter aims to be more personable, will journalists need a specific personality to be successful in this new era of news-gathering?

‘Twitter for Newsrooms’ proves that journalists and news organizations are becoming progressive in the social media arena.  However, with this new process the same challenges that face social media for you and me (privacy and verification) are the same ones facing journalists as well.