After reading these articles my eyes were opened to just how rapidly social media took hold of the news industry. Clay Shirky cited some staggering numbers in his article Last Call indicating just how quickly newspapers lost their footing in the news world. Shirky notes that print ad revenues dropped a whopping 65% in the decade leading up to 2014. This pace was significant in cutting apart local papers who were unable to keep funding their staffs and were forced to eventually shrink drastically.
Shirky does go on to provide some advice to journalists who were perhaps too naive initially to see the impending doom of the daily paper. He offers three main pieces of advice to journalists who are frightened their trade is becoming extinct, however the most important one I felt was his second. “Understand how social media can work as a newsroom tool”, this overlaps to a great extent with the 2011 piece in The Economist titled The People Formely Known as the Audience. The Economist article outlines how CNN’s iReport website, a social media tool in a sense, has benefited their work and helped them reach stories they never could have before. The article further outlines how Al Jazeera staffs had just undergone social media training immediately before many of the Arab spring uprisings and how the skills were immediately utilized to create tangible results.
Between Shirky’s piece and the article featured in The Economist it is clear that social media is playing an ever expanding and transforming role in the field of public relations and journalism. The days of writing a story and passing it along a few days later are long in the past, the public demands up to the minute news alerts and social media has helped make this possible.
One big issue with social media and up to the minute reporting can be accurately vetting leads to ensure their legitimacy. The Economist article notes how thoroughly CNN works to verify the leads submitted through iReport such as matching up landmarks, weather, shadows and many other potentially tell-tale signs of a fraudulent report. Facebook has recently launched a project aimed at doing their part to clear fake news from social media, after claims that they didn’t do enough during the past election.
One of the most interesting features to be noted from Facebook so far is the ability to view multiple new stories on a similar topic from multiple sources at once in order to cross reference and get the full story. This press release outlines some of the features Facebook will begin to develop and enhance on their platform.
Social media may not be as flashy, or as significant as some people think, and it may be dirty work, but someone has to do it, and do it right. In order to keep the public informed social media needs to operate in the most effective and honest way possible moving forward.