Social Media: Release The Genie or Put it Back in the Bottle?

Journalism was once a career open only to the privileged few. Only those with the relevant qualifications and appropriate training could report and publish news. It was a sexy, powerful and exclusive career.

That is crumbling around us. The genie has escaped from the bottle and the public finally have the powers to publish news.

All the rules journalists used to be governed by have changed and something fundamentally transformative has happened to the communications world. Even the update of a facebook status is seen as the power to publish.

We can all publish news. Anytime. Anywhere. Anything.

Blogging turned ten this year. Time to reach for the birthday cake and celebrate, or get your scrooge head on, bury your head in the sand, and try desperately to pretend that such a transformative period in the media is just a load of hype which has gone on longer than it should?

To critics of social media, blogging is simply an amateur trying, yet failing, to outsmart a professional. But whose opinions do we really listen to? Is it the `Opinion` section of the Times, which shows the view of an educated and trained person, or opinion sites produced by the public and posted on the web?

Take this website here for example. I have been on holiday three years running and on each occasion I changed my mind on where I should go purely because of what these so-called amateurs had written about it. I didn’t realise the meaning of it at the time, but my action of basing my holiday decision on their review is a clear sign of the power amateurs have when they publish news on the internet.

This article here sums up the situation nicely.You can be forgiven for thinking that with sites such as Flickr, Facebook, MySpace, and with the millions of blogs out there, professional journalists have a bleak future. Wrong. There will always be a healthy career for a good journalist, who will get their story read despite the flood of alternatives offered on the internet.

But what social journalism provides is something more personal than what the professional going through the motions offers. Whereas a trained journalist gathers his facts, asks questions, and writes it up for a deadline, a citizen journalist is speaking from personal experience, giving a new and appealing dimension to news which was lacking before the internet came along.

I particularly like the last line of the article-The journalist’s “news nose” is still as important as ever – it just has a broader range of fragrances to sniff.

Pulitzer Prize winner Buzz Bissinger angrily said in a televised discussion of blogging on HBO.

“I think that blogs are dedicated to cruelty, dedicated to journalistic dishonesty. It is the complete dumbing down of our society.”

Yet with such a vast amount of social networking and blogging sites, the public have the power to publish in the palms of their hands.

Yes, blogging is sometimes simply a universal soapbox in that it is just someone ranting about a topic most people feel nothing for. But journalists’ understanding of blogging and their view of it is restricted by their fear that it will lead to a hasty end to their career.

This is dangerous. Blogging and other forms of social journalism are no longer bound by the chains that journalists once placed on them when they said, “Only we shall report the news.” Like I said, the genie has been released and is not going back to a life confined in a small space for some time yet. So journalists need to accept this, respond to it, and embrace it soon. Or else they may find that their intolerance of change is their own downfall.

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One Response to “Social Media: Release The Genie or Put it Back in the Bottle?”

  1. egrommet Says:

    Your point is a good one. And we were never the only ones to report the news, it was happening around us and it depended on what we were able to pick up or be told about that influenced what we could say.

    Hopefully by being more transparent and being part of both online and offline communities we can not only do as you suggest, but strengthen our offer.

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