Between 2006 and 2011, daily newspaper staffs across the country shrank by 25 percent; between 2005 and 2009, newspaper ad revenue dropped 47 percent. While I don’t believe print is completely dead, it’s certainly a shadow of its former self. As readers turn to their computers, smartphones and tablets to find out what’s going on, many news organizations have moved or are moving toward an emphasis on digital.
Unfortunately, the internet plays host to a lot of false information, and it can be tough to sort out what’s true and what’s not. That’s why it’s so important for journalists to be present where people are seeking information — social media. As it always has been, it’s the journalists’ job to shine light in dark corners; the corners just look a little different than they did 10 or 20 years ago.
We have to stop thinking of social media as only a tool for journalists. It’s not just an embed code factory, and it’s not just a bullhorn for us to broadcast our messages. Social media allows us to stay in touch with our communities — what interests them, what worries them, what inspires them, what they want to know more about.
Social media also allows us to sniff out breaking news, even when it doesn’t originate from an institutional news organization. Thanks to social media and blogging platforms, anyone can report news or write a column. Rather than turn our noses up at citizen journalists, we should embrace those who are willing to document something important happening in our community, nation or world. Maybe the guy tweeting photos of an interstate pileup doesn’t have a journalism degree, but that doesn’t mean what he’s doing doesn’t have value.
We as journalists would be wise to embed such a tweet, call the police for details and publish an article on our website. Because that’s what we do: confirm and dig deeper. Reporting in a digital world still requires the same principles of journalism we learned in J-school; sourcing, identification and verification are still important, even when bloggers are running with a rumor. That sets us apart and gives all journalists cause to embrace this digital era — because we have to continue shining our lights, even when the internet would have us believe the world is dark.
How do you consume news? Where (social media, news website/paper/TV, blogs, etc.) and from whom (friends, journalists, brands, etc.)?
Are you picky about your sources of news? Do you double check items that come from less-than-reputable sources?