For some, social networking is viewed as a distraction from homework and the real world. “You lose the ability to communicate with people in person, “they always seem to say. “it makes your grades stink and serves for nothing but being a creeper.”
The truth, though, is that social networking does have some amazing benefits for journalists: connecting you to literally millions of potential sources and places of information.
This weekend, I had the privilege of hearing Nathan Wright speak about social networking in general, as well as the ethics of social media. Wright, the founder of a firm designed to create social networking for businesses, spoke about how social media is a big component of the future of journalism and communication.
Twitter, for example, can bring both information and credibility to a journalist. A well-handled Twitter feed that retweets news and relevant events as well as “personality” tweets (ie, Tweets that express who you are as a person) can make you seem more relatable and well-informed. Facebook can promote your news stories and announcements via a “like” button linked to your page, the story’s page, and vice versa. It can also encourage discussion and information sharing outside of the story itself. Youtube allows users (and journalists!) to upload videos of nearly anything in a matter of seconds, whether it is news or entertainment (or, like Auto-tune the News, both).
Foursquare and location-based networking, which Wright said could very well become the next big thing in social networking, allow people to see who is in the middle of the action in a given location. Mashable, a news source for social media, explained well in May 2010 how journalists can utilize this up and coming network for their own careers.
The big controversy with social networking (besides the misuse for procrastination during homework time … ) is ethics, more so discretion. Wright brought up the fact that there is indeed a fine line between personality and professionalism when it comes to social networking. Additionally, if we use Tweets and foursquare to track down potential sources and news leads, can we consider that ethical? Some people really dislike social networking as sources for journalism and believe that it should not be credible at all.
The fact of the matter is, Facebook and Twitter (..and Foursquare, Tumblr, Deviantart, WordPress, Livejournal, Myspace and even Rotten Tomatoes) aren’t just for lurking anymore. They’ve become a huge source of communication with large demographics of users from all backgrounds — just what a journalist may need to make a story happen.
So, how do you feel about social media integrating with journalism? Which social networks would be most affective for communication? Do you think that using a tweet (with permission, of course) can be considered a legitimate source? How can we tell if a Tweet isn’t a faux pas or satire? With Facebook, can “comment wars” and “trolls” ruin healthy discussion? How can we keep personality and professionalism separate?
(Photo of social networks logo, originally from: http://www.lifehack.org/articles/productivity/managing-your-social-network-addiction.html)