Is social media changing the world of journalism?

Many years ago, Sunday mornings would be spent eating breakfast, drinking coffee, and catching up on what’s been going on in the week by reading the local or national newspapers. This is no longer the case. What you’ll see now is most of the family sitting and staring at their smartphones or tablets, whether it be scrolling through Facebook, tweeting somebody, or posting a picture on Instagram. However, these social media sites are no longer only being used to connect with friends. For many, they are also being used as a news source to find out what is happening in the world. This new platform for news is changing the way journalists work, therefore changing the world of traditional journalism as we know it.

Technology has developed massively over the years, and because of this, so has the way we consume news. We used to read newspapers and magazines, before progressing to listening to the radio and watching television. More recently, the online and digital world has exploded. People are now much more likely to read a news app rather than watch it on television, and there is a huge buzz around social media.

One organisation that looked into how social media was affecting journalism was Ofcom (the regulatory system for anything that is broadcast in the UK). Ofcom’s statistics show that social media has seen a huge increase across many different age groups, with almost half of 16-24s now using sites such as Facebook and Twitter as a news source. This research shows that in 2014, 30% of 16-24-year-olds used social media to consume news, and one year later in 2015, a whopping 47% of the same age group used social media for the same reason. With a jump of 17% in only one year, this could mean that nearly all of that age group could be using social media as the only source for news by 2019.

Journalists themselves are also turning to social media for their stories. Videos and pictures that members of the public have posted on social media now play a huge part in major news stories, as they are usually at the scene a lot quicker than a journalist with their cameraman. Tweets and Facebook posts are regularly included in modern day news stories, as it is a quick and honest way of showing people’s reactions, whether this is to a result of an election, a natural disaster, or a famous footballer getting sacked from their team.

Scary right? Or is it? There are many pros and cons of using social media as a news outlet, here are just a few:

PROS:

Fast paced – We no longer have to wait overnight to hear the breaking news. If something happens then BAM, it’s straight onto social media. With live feeds from the scene, the public can keep up-to-date on what is happening whilst it’s happening.

Cheap and easy – One of the most appealing aspects of using social media to discover the news is that it’s free, and you can literally do it from anywhere (as long as you have Wi-Fi or mobile data of course). You no longer have to go to the shop and spend money on a newspaper, or even have to carry it around with you.

The power of images and videos – One thing that social media has which print does not is video footage and live images. As TV has crept up as one of the main ways people consume news, it makes perfect sense that people love to watch video footage. They love to see what is happening, as it happens. Social media gives anybody the chance to share live news, which moves on to our next point.

Thumbs up from Google – When busy social media channels lead people to fresh news content on websites, it signals to Google that these websites should rank well. Therefore, news websites such as the BBC, Daily Mail, The Guardian and The Telegraph are flying high on page one, as well as in the News tab in Google search.

CONS:

Newsworthy or not? –  The whole reason we have the news is because it is relevant to people, people find it interesting, and that one story can affect many different people. However, with online news becoming more and more popular, it looks like news organisations feel the need to write a new ‘story’ every other minute or so. Well, life is exciting, but not that exciting. There isn’t always something happening at every minute of the day, meaning that sometimes what we see on social media isn’t actually news at all, rather than a story that has been churned out just to create content.

Not traditional No matter what people say, in our opinion, nothing is the same as holding a newspaper. Reading a printed newspaper gives people the sense of familiarity, comfort and above all, makes them feel like they are really learning something. Scrolling through Twitter and seeing the news just doesn’t have that same feeling.

Anyone can be a journalist – Now I know what you’re thinking: ‘surely this is a positive?’ Well, it’s both. It is good in the sense that it’s highly unlikely that a journalist will be on the scene as news breaks, but a member of the public will be. However, this can also be negative, as news desks must get bombarded with tweets and Facebook posts from the public, claiming they have some news’.

So, what do these pros and cons mean for the future of traditional journalism? Will newspapers ever be as influential as they used to be? Will newspapers even exist in 20 years? Only time will tell, but we think it’s safe to say that the power of social media will continue to get stronger and who knows, there could even be a new way in which we all find the news.