Social media is becoming an increasingly important tool in modern journalism. Whether it’s Twitter, LinkedIn, or professional Facebook pages, the promptness and availability of social media proves valuable in getting people the news.
This proved true in a trial ending last week in Belleville, Ontario, where Colonel Russell Williams pleaded guilty to murder, sexual assault, and dozens of break-ins of bedrooms of girls as young as 11.
A ban had previously been placed in the court room for the trial, forbidding anyone from using laptops, cell phones, and Blackberrys. However, the ban was lifted, allowing journalists to use electronic devices to cover the case. This is unusual in Canada, as each judge has the choice of whether or not electronics will be allowed in his/her courtroom.
Once the ‘Blackberry ban‘ was lifted, journalists found the material covered to be very graphic and raw with both graphics and dialogue.
The reporters were required to use their best judgment to decide what is appropriate to post and what wasn’t. It was common for their Twitter followers to ‘un-follow’ them until the trial was over.
People were shocked by the content that was being put on Twitter by the reporters. The hashtag ‘#ColRW‘ became a worldwide top trend because of re-tweets and constant coverage. People tweeted that they were un-following or signing off Twitter for awhile, calling the posts incessant, graphic, and unsolicited.
While the use of social media helped keep the public informed, it can also be suggested that there needs to be standards set for journalism done with social media, similar to standards for other types of journalism. Social media is efficient and immediate, however, it can often eliminate necessary considerations, including editing, verification, and relevance.