Can good journalism survive social media and the speed of online journalism?

Session: Social media meets news practice: standards for reporting in social media and online

David Arant, University of Memphis

Well, the session started off with a lesson that is true in all aspects in life—it is a small world and connections matter. David Arant came up to talk to me when he realized I attended Elon University. Turns out he is friends with Professor Don Grady, taught media law at Elon University for a year and taught Professor Janna Anderson.

Interesting facts, but is this relevant? Yes, digital media and social media are making the world an even smaller place. Unlike chance meetings with a friend of a friend, the small world created by digital media is not always a good thing.

“It’s not like we are trying to be bad journalists,” Arant said. “It’s just that we don’t have time to be good.”

Today journalists are having to write the article, tweet about it, post it on a blog, shoot a video for it, take pictures, write cutlines and copy edit their work. Arant believes that one person doing all of this can lead to bad journalism tactics.

Arant compared today’s media environment with a perfect storm. (Yes, a video clip from the movie was supposed to be included, but we don’t have internet in the session rooms).

So now it is time to talk about social media and online news media. One of the forces that are creating “the perfect storm” is people no longer reading print media. There is the depressing statistic that only 31% of people get news just from newspapers. However, there is the statistic that 92% of people use multiple platforms to get news: tv, newspapers and internet. Well that is not that bad, at least people are looking at the news.

Another force is the economy. So many people have had to get laid off during the last few years. The bad economy is having employees expect more from their reporters.

This expectation put on journalists for them to do everything is what has led to Arant’s belief about journalists not having time to be good journalists.

“Is it okay to publish first and ask questions later in this wild wild web world?” asked Arant.

A 2008 survey found that all newspapers edited copy before putting it in print but only about half of the editors surveyed said they always have content copy edited before posting online. Fifteen percent of editors said articles are never copy edited before it is put online. Forty percent of editors said that fact checking was less rigorous.

Like most stories, the ending of this session brought home a positive message—don’t give up. Journalism can be a lot more interactive with higher engagement from readers. And do you know what that means? The readers are still there, so don’t give up. However, it is up to us, the journalists, to make sure what we post online or print is accurate and copy edited, so readers will not stop reading.

-Rebecca Smith


One thought on “Can good journalism survive social media and the speed of online journalism?

  1. He didn’t teach me, but I know him, too, from my time at Memphis. The Elon-to-Memphis pipeline opened a decade ago. Wow.

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