August 12, 2012

Social Media and Traditional News: There's a Place for Both

This summer, the USA Network is running a limited series event called Political Animals.  When I was in college I really enjoyed the television series The West Wing and this show reminds me of that witty, behind-the-scenes view of the White House.

One of the main characters (or political animals) is a newspaper journalist for the Washington Globe, covering the female Secretary of State (played by Sigourney Weaver) and her family for an in-depth profile.  The journalist is scooped by a blogger who threatens to break an important story that the journalist has a vested interest in.  The journalist tries to persuade the blogger not to post her blog, but is blackmailed into sharing the byline if the blog post is delayed.

The journalist ultimately agrees in order to save the integrity of the story, but makes the very valid point that the blogger’s “scoop” would just be a drop in the bucket.  “Journalism is about quality, not speed.  People read a newspaper at length about something important such as American political life and to be better informed citizens of the democracy.”  She goes on to say that although the blog may receive 10 million direct views, it will just be a blogger who broke a headline, not a journalist who reported a story and neither the blogger nor the newspaper will get an ounce of prestige from that headline.  The story takes time and effort to report, but in the end, good journalism will prevail.

Newspapers may be dwindling in direct circulation but online newspapers and blogs contribute value because good reporters put the same effort into the story no matter where it is published.  The same is true with company blogs because blogging consistently and providing valuable information presents the company as an industry expert and builds trust and credibility.  In the fast paced 21st century business world, blogs that are informative, direct and to the point are more likely to be read than lengthy articles in print publication.

A recent article in Social Media Today addresses this well and quoted Mark Luckie, who founded the digital journalism blog 10,000 Words, and authored “The Digital Journalist's Handbook.”

“Social media has permeated so many areas of journalism and it’s being used by a lot more people, but there is still a segment of the population that doesn’t use social media and an even bigger segment that doesn’t use it actively,” Luckie said.  In other words, both media outlets provide value to different segments of the population.

Journalists and bloggers should not get caught up in the speed of information because it doesn’t take long for a post to go viral.  Social media content spreads quickly, especially through Twitter, and there aren’t approval safeguards before posting.  Therefore, quality should come first and social media should be used responsibly.  Traditional journalism has filters, but there are no filters with social media!

How do you get your news and why do you choose that medium?

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