Has social media killed journalism?
While many newspapers have closed their doors, some journalists see social media as as a way to extend their reach and influence. Most newspapers now host blogs by journalists and many reporters post on Twitter. Newspapers and TV stations have Facebook pages where they can interact with fans.
When an extremist flew a plane into an Austin office building, American Statesman social media editor Robert Quigley asked 20,000 Twitter followers to send in pictures and call information to the reporter heading to the scene. Followers were also able to supply a link to pilot's manifesto and provided much real-time reaction as the story was unfolding.
Quigley comments that daily interaction with readers and sources helps newsroom staff "gather meaningful tips, track trends and build valuable relationships with the public."
Critics dismiss the social media realm by saying it's a place where rumors run rampant and ethics are ignored. Some suggest that social media replaces the need for professional journalists. My response is that journalists are even more valuable, exactly because of what we do. When rumors are running wild, journalists can verify what's really going on and report it through social media channels. The code of ethics that journalists live by translates into the social media world. Whether content is being published in print, on our new Web site or on Facebook, journalists are expected to be ethical, fair and accurate.
As one who studied journalism and worked for newspapers early in my career, I have watched the demise of newspapers with concern, wondering where the money will come from to pay investigative journalists to uncover fraud and abuse, on Wall Street and elsewhere.
There are encouraging signs that social media and the Net can strengthen those news outlets that can adapt. Journalists working for the online web site www.propublica.org are doing important work on public policy issues. They teamed with the Planet Money team from NPR and This American Life to expose how a little-known hedge fund, Magnetar, expanded the housing bubble and made the collapse much worse. The teaming with NPR brought their work to a much wider audience.
Social media opens new avenues for public relations professionals to develop relationships with reporters.
Blogs, Twitter and Facebook also offer new platforms to bring clients' points of view before new audiences and strengthen relationships with current stakeholders. As with any aspect of PR or marketing, such engagement should be strategic, so the leap into social media will advance company and organizational objectives.
It is good to know journalists will still be out there to carry messages with credibility as many continue to embrace social media to stay relevant and build new audiences.