Social Media + Journalism

“There are indications that journalism norms are bending as professional practices adapt to social media tools” – Alfred Hermida, “Twittering the News”

As the world of social media, and the Internet as a whole, continues to develop and morph, the art of journalism continues to change as well. I think of it as a “new kid” situation in school: social media is the new kid in class and journalism is the existing group of kids that think social media might fit into their friend group but they just aren’t quite sure. Social media and journalism seem to get along, but they can’t quite figure each other out, yet they continue to affect and change each other during the “figuring out” process.

As journalists and journalism students, we are constantly presented with the issue of social media ethics. We all want to make a social media presence and most of us enjoy social media outlets, but where should the line between journalism and social media fall? What makes something okay to share on social media but not okay to share by journalistic standards?

Billy Baker’s Story

Boston Globe writer Billy Baker tweeted the story of two Boston teenagers who touched his life. Spanning two and a half hours, the twitter story shared Baker’s story meeting Johnny and George Huynh. Johnny and George are the children of Vietnamese immigrants who, like so many other, faced day-to-day struggles. Baker’s twitter story, documented on Storify, tells the story of the night George found out he’d been accepted to Yale University.

Billy Baker's twitter pic of George on the night he found out about his acceptance to Yale.  Source: https://twitter.com/billy_baker/status/412745663223697408/photo/1

Billy Baker’s twitter pic of George on the night he found out about his acceptance to Yale.
Source: https://twitter.com/billy_baker/status/412745663223697408/photo/1

The story had me in tears. I couldn’t help but think about my own acceptance to college, and realized George and his brother made it through struggles I couldn’t, and still can’t, really conceptualize.

Journalism + Social Media

In terms of journalistic ethics and social media, I’m not sure Billy Baker’s twitter story was journalistic, but did it need to be? I think Baker’s example poses the same “line between social media and journalism” question that the entire industry is currently faced with.

In “Twittering the News”, Alfred Hermida wrote, “The institutionally structured features of micro-blogging [social media, etc.] are creating new forms of journalism, representing one of the ways in which the Internet is influencing journalism practices and, furthermore, changing how journalism itself is defined.”

“Changing how journalism itself is defined”. That’s exactly it! Social media and journalism are just like the kids who can’t quite figure each other out. Social media continues to change our modern definition of journalism and journalism continues to play an important role in the ethical questions regarding social media. Social media is such a crucial tool in today’s journalism. I am fully confident that the relationship between the two will not be fully determined anytime soon, but that we will be able to learn to utilize each of them with the help of the other.

Readers, how do you think social media and journalism will develop together? Do you agree that they’re changing their own definitions?

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