Far too often I see stories, comments, and infographics (see below) about how social media is taking over journalism. This simply isn’t the case. Social media can’t replace journalism – they are just too different. Those who view social media as a threat to journalism are missing the great opportunities it presents.
Social media can help with almost every function in the business of news. I’ve seen it used to: source stories, line up interviews, provide personal photos, drive readership, interact with on-air personalities, do quick viewer polls, connect with customers, and the list goes on.
When you really think about it, journalism ISN’T words on newsprint, voices on airwaves, or pictures on the nightly news. That’s just a description of the traditional distribution model. Journalism is really about telling stories. Accurate, fair, balanced, and interesting stories. It doesn’t matter that I read my news on my smartphone, and my neighbour still buys broadsheet newspapers everyday. The important thing is that we both are still consuming news stories produced by trained professionals.
“Boohoo” stories from the newspaper industry really bug me because they don’t tell the whole story about declining circulations. Who cares if some paper in Seattle is no longer offering a print edition of their paper after more than 140 years of publication? People weren’t buying it in the first place because it was a bunch of ink printed on dead trees. They were buying it for the stories. And this “historic” paper in Seattle is still alive and well online. As long as traditional news outlets are willing to adapt how they deliver stories to the public, and their revenue streams, they will be set up for success. I don’t see this as a decline in “traditional journalism” whatsoever.
Perhaps the social media vs. traditional journalism sentiment comes from the way we talk about how social media relates to journalism. Nobody likes to have the relevance of their job called into question, so I can see how the term “citizen journalism” may have upset a few people in the industry. Perhaps we shouldn’t be calling it “citizen journalism”; instead, call it “citizen reporting” – a bit more accurate.
But citizen reporting has it’s place, and journalists really can’t compete with it: in fact, they shouldn’t even try. Let Twitter tell me that Dick Clark has passed away – I read the rest of the story on a traditional news website. Facebook can tell me the “who, what, when, where”, details of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but I look to traditional media to give me a bit more insight on the “why and how” because their journalists have the time, training, and access to newsmakers to be able to write a more fulsome story.
There is no doubt that journalists and news organizations need to continue to adapt, like every other industry. The ones who can’t (or won’t) will be forgotten, but the ones that embrace social media are using it to give them an edge in the business of news gathering and distribution. And to be quite honest, I am certain that I read more newspaper stories in 2012 than ever before because the internet gives me greater access.
The infographic below was released this week by schools.com containing stats on “How social media is replacing journalism.” Take a look, and let me know what you think.