On Tuesday, I had the opportunity to present “All the news that’s fit to Tweet: How social media is changing news gathering and news reporting” to a group of Journal Gazette reporters and editors. As I mentioned in my opening remarks, the journalists in the audience are the true experts on that topic–they’re experiencing those changes every day. My goal, then, was simply to provide an objective perspective and to demonstrate why I believe social media presents a tremendous opportunity for journalists to connect with their audience. The slides above provide an overview of my comments, but here are a few of the key points:
– Social media provides unmatched speed and scale. That’s why more and more people are getting the news from social media first, and then sharing in real time what they learn. That’s pretty hard to compete with.
– That being said, the news media still has an incredibly important role to play as people seek to answer three questions about the stories they find via their social networks:
- Where can I learn more? You can’t say much in a 140-character Tweet or in a Facebook status update. The news media can meet the audience’s need for substance.
- Is it credible? This just in: just because you read it on the Internet doesn’t mean it’s true. The media can help the audience separate fact from fiction.
- What does it mean in my community? When the audience wants to know what a story means in their neighborhood, the news media have the infrastructure to deliver hyper-local content.
Journalists can position themselves as a trusted provider of answers to those questions.
– In addition, when the news media encourage the audience to share and comment on its content, they have the added opportunity to reach an even broader audience. The news media can be the bridge between what happens when a story breaks and what happens when people want to talk about developing stories and share their opinions with their networks via social media.
– The opportunities available to journalists aren’t limited to their interactions with the audience. A growing number of networks/tools allow them to leverage the power of social media to find sources that may otherwise have been beyond their reach (through tools like Help A Reporter Out and LinkedIn Answers, for example), connect with other journalists (Muck Rack) and solicit opinions/quotes/reaction from readers and others (by simply asking questions on Twitter or via a status update on Facebook or LinkedIn).
– I truly believe, as I said in this earlier blog post, that there’s a closing window of opportunity for the traditional media to change the way it reports and disseminates the news. To seize this opportunity, however, journalists need to play offense instead of defense. This means looking at social media not as the enemy, but as an ally. The relationship between social media and the traditional news media isn’t an “either/or” proposition. They are not mutually exclusive. Journalists who understand this (such as Andy Carvin, Brian Stelter and Nick Kristof) will make the rules in the new world of journalism.
– If journalists resist social media, someone else will pick up the mantel. If journalists refuse to break news on Twitter, as some would have it, someone else will do it for them.
– Every journalist has a responsibility to encourage their profession to confront these challenges and resist being complacent. It’s up to those in the profession to change the industry from within.
The group I spoke to was very receptive to my comments–they get it, that’s for sure. They also had a lot of great questions, including a few with no easy answers. How can the news media create a sustainable revenue model in this environment? If ad content is matched to editorial content (news stories, blog posts, or otherwise), what happens when that content is unfavorable to the advertiser(s) that appears on the same page? How do you know when it’s safe to break a story via social media knowing that once it’s out there, it’s out there? All require substantive consideration and debate. One thing’s certain, however: social media’s impact on news gathering and reporting will only increase. The media can adapt without compromising its standards, but it must act quickly. Now is the time to start answering those questions. Now is the time for the news media to begin playing offense instead of defense.