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What does social media mean for the future of journalism?

3 min read


This post was written by Mirna Bard, a social media consultant, speaker, author and instructor of social media at the University of California at Irvine.

SmartPulse — our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Social Media — tracks feedback from leading marketers about social-media practices and issues.

Last week’s poll question: What’s your opinion of social journalism?

  • I love how I get breaking news a lot faster now, and I am able to contribute to it 37.68%
  • Journalists are relying too much on the online opinion of social networkers, bloggers, etc 24.64%
  • Social journalism will never replace professional journalism and traditional news-gathering techniques 23.19%
  • I have not paid much attention to it because I still mostly turn to traditional media 14.49%

In early 2008, I did a social media and search engine optimization training session for a group of newspaper journalists. I will never forget their disapproving comments about the social Web or the distressed look on their faces. They certainly did not view it as a life saver. They saw it as a time drain that was going to cause dire changes to the way they reported their stories.

Fast forward three years and the social Web has dramatically altered the way journalists do their jobs. No matter what the subject is, you’ll find reporters using social tools to convey breaking news in real-time. Social journalists are also using social tools to clarify online content, check facts and earn readers’ trust.

Integrating with social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube is now a must for journalists looking to stay relevant. Like the majority of Smartbrief respondents, I love getting breaking news in real-time and especially benefit from being able to comment on and share it with my online community.

Nevertheless, a part of me still doesn’t think social journalism will ever replace traditional news gathering for the following reasons:

  • Privacy & copyright issues. It is very difficult to control these issues with social journalism since it is heavily based on who gets in first.
  • “Curating” vs. “reporting” content. Social journalism often consists of more content curation than reporting, so this may hinder the depth of the information being reported. Also, many readers online don’t know the difference between content curation and content reporting.
  • Inaccurate information. Sometimes, we don’t know if the news is coming from trusted sources or if we’re being taken in by a wild rumor.
  • Lack of social media training. Many journalists have not gone through any kind of social media training to be able to leverage these platforms properly.

What are your thoughts on the future of social journalism? Do you think it will replace traditional journalism?