My View: Social Media’s Impact On Journalism

Well, I’m one blog post (this one) away from finishing my first semester of grad school. I’m so proud of all that I’ve been able to accomplish this semester after more than a decade out of school.  I’ve learned so much these past couple of months. From shooting and editing to becoming a better writer and blogger, what a great experience it has been. As you can see from the picture below, I’m happy that I chose to start this journey. Going back to school is by far my best decision of 2018.

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This blog was started for my Intro to Digital Communications course. Our required weekly posts have been perfect, because I’ve been wanting to start a blog for quite some time now. This week in our final blog for the year, I’m reflecting back to week three when we dived into social media.

Social media has been such a game changer in all of our personal lives, no doubt. In some cases it’s made and destroyed relationships, jobs and even families– but we’re not going to go into all of that.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

For the purpose of this blog I’m going to focus on how social media has changed the news industry. I’ve worked in television for the last 11 years, so while I’m not a true news vet, I’ve been around long enough to see the social/digital change. I remember working my first news job overnight as a producer, having to post breaking news stories. I wasn’t the best at it, but I was able to get enough on the web until our digital producer showed up.  That was back in 2010, fast forward to 2014 that’s when I really got into using social media for work.

The coolest thing about working at The Weather Channel was covering weather situations across the world. TWC is based in Atlanta and while there are teams and freelancers strategically placed around the world, you can’t be every where all the time. So, as a producer I can remember surfing Twitter and looking for pictures and videos that I could use in my show to help tell certain weather stories. User generated content became such a tool for getting my shows done. Little did I know that this was just the beginning of my social media dependency.

In 2015, I went back to local news and I worked at a station where being a digital first newsroom was a priority. There was no getting away from it and based on my time at TWC I was all onboard. Every day we started our  news meetings looking at what’s popping on social and digital. We would then use that information to help determine the stories we were going to cover that day. This is something that I took with me to my next station when I became a news director and will take with me every station I go to next.

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Photo by Tookapic on Pexels.com

So, why does local news care so much about social media, the answer is simple. You want to make sure you’re covering stories that people care about. Every day social media lets you know that based on stories that are trending. If the Government Shutdown is the biggest trending story, it’s something you need to make sure you’re covering. People are more likely to tune in to watch a story they already have an interest in. As a news organization your job is to figure out how to tell the story in a different and interesting way. A way that makes it more relatable to their lives.

The other big win for using social media in news is connecting to communities that you might not otherwise know about. In several of my past newsrooms, we have been able to tell some pretty incredible stories based on things that were found on social media posts. The cool thing about a platform like Facebook is that it gives you these groups where people of like interests can come together and discuss things that are important to them. As a news organization, being able to get inside of those groups and really find out what people are talking about can pay off for both you and them. There might be a problem that’s brought up in a group of moms and they don’t know who to turn to. As a local news station you might be able to get involved and bring the change/help they need.

Social media has also opened the door to helping the world become a lot more informed. I’m guilty of getting a lot of my news from my Twitter feed. Now, don’t get me wrong I’m following reputable sites and news organizations. I start almost all of my days checking my Twitter feed to see what’s happening in the world. From time to time I might turn on the television if I need a deep dive on something. For the most part I’m getting what I need from social media and push alerts.

Now, just as helpful as social media is with spreading news, it can also be harmful. Sadly, not everyone is vetting the information they see on their timelines. I can think of at least a couple of times where I’ve seen someone share an Onion story as fact. For some people they believe if it’s on social media, it has to be true. I look forward to the day when people will stop and think before clicking share.

As I continue on the path of getting my master’s degree and working in the news industry I know that social media’s impact will only increase. As an industry we’re already doing so much across all social media platforms. At times it’s mind blowing to see how we are able to connect and impact the communities we serve with just a few clicks of a mouse.

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