Social Media: the battle to be first

3 Feb

We’re just back from talking to a number of young people about the changes in the way news is delivered and reported by mainstream media.

Tweeting in court, uploading videos to Facebook and YouTube from the scene and adding opinion have all become part of a journalist’s daily ritual as the pressure to break a story first ramps up. The big issue, however, facing press with the increase of activity on social media is not their own gathered stories, but that news is now often broken first by eye-witnesses, long before it can be confirmed by what many would see as traditional media.

Some media outlets opt to say we’re getting “unconfirmed reports” and go on to retweet or talk about the “rumours”, but should we as journalists even comment on news generated by social media?

The common rule of thumb is always to have at least two reputable sources,  and even better from the horse’s mouth. So when Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshire tweets on his verified account to confirm a stress fracture, you can take it as read that the Gunner’s telling the truth.

But the grey area comes when a rumour’s spread so far it starts trending and no one can trace the source. So if Joe Bloggs says Jack Wilshere has a stress fracture, we should still get it confirmed by the club first.

Many of the accounts we handle for social media are based around fan engagement within sport and organisations. Rumours spread no quicker than when football is involved. So and so has been sacked, or is joining a club,  or perhaps most frighteningly, the moment when older members of the sporting fraternity are mistakenly killed off  – all should set alarm bells ringing.

Most recently the alertness has been ripe over allegations surrounding the England Captain John Terry and wariness of prejudicing any case against the Chelsea player. Many discussions on social media have been far from balanced either way but is it fair to say Twitter,  for example,  is just a big social gathering and people starting rumours or commenting on active cases should be exempt from reproach?

Many of those we spoke to this week about the best ways of delivering journalism in a changing world, were often unaware of the impact 140 characters can make. Of how a throw-away remark on Twitter or Facebook can result in criminal proceedings. Perhaps more worrying is that some using Twitter were unaware just how public their tweets were.

That said, what was clear was how social media has transformed the way news operates globally. It has shifted the balance of governments and changed opinion formers and engaged an audience.  Some of those we spoke to had only become engaged in news and current affairs as a result of following “Twitter trends”.  For every new evolution of social media, traditional media too will need to adapt and grow.  It’s an incredible tool, but the same caution that applies to chatting to a man in the street needs to be upheld on social networks and the same common sense with it.

Away from the classroom and it’s been another busy week in the Jibba Jabba Hub. With a new sponsor for The Cabcast and some fantastic new Richard and Judy Bookclub Podcasts we’re also just putting the finishing touches on two new additions to the fold. That’s the ears catered for, but also expect a feast for the eyes too with a new comedy show and some very special Social Media projects, news we hope to bring you before the rest of the Twitter world gets hold of it! Enjoy

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