The other day, I got into a bit of a heated discussion with one of my friends about my Mobile and Social Media and Journalism course. He said that it was stupid that we were being taught to use Twitter and Facebook for reporting serious topics. He believes such sites are only places for mindless frivolity, heated trolling and fictitious and humorous stories like those produced by The Onion.

However, I obviously had to disagree.

We are all Khaled Said
Facebook pages like this one were used to spur the emotions that later led to the Arab Spring. Citizens used social media websites to share stories of corruption as well as share ideas and organize protests.

It’s hard to deny the fact that use of the Internet has been slowly increasing the amount of transparency among mainstream media, public officials and the everyday citizen. If you need an example, merely shift your gaze to the current state of the Middle East.

Current social media is giving power back to the public. If it has something to say, social media platforms and blogging websites give them the ability to have its opinions heard. Things like “trending topics,” commonly found on most of today’s networking-heavy websites, make it easy for people to chime in on the hottest topics with the most traffic, making it more likely that their thoughts will be seen by officials in the field.

Miracle on the Hudson
“There’s a plane in the Hudson. I’m on the ferry going to pick up the people. Crazy.” @jkrums

This is especially true in journalism. Many times, we’ve had breaking news stories that have had to rely on citizen journalism and social media posts. For example, when Capt. Chesley B. Sullenberger III landed the US Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson River in New York on Jan. 15, 2009, it was a Twitter photo by Janis Krums that hit the front page of every mainstream media outlet. Likewise, when a Carnival Triumph Cruise ship that ended up dead in the water on Feb. 10, 2013, left thousands stranded in the water for four days, many people aboard took to Twitter to report the conditions. Their photos and tweets were featured in galleries and on news outlets across the nation.

The direction of conversation is changing. It’s becoming more of a two-way street between journalists and their audience. If a reporter needs information, he can reach out to society to ask for tips. If a reader doesn’t like the way an organization framed a story, or if it left something out, he or she can leave a comment, write an email, send a tweet, etc. The public is becoming more engaged in what journalists are doing, and I believe this will only lead to better things.

You don’t have to believe me. You don’t have to believe anything this post says. But I implore you to try it out yourself. Reach out to your local newspaper, or contact it on social media. In my personal life as a lowly college student, I’ve had numerous people on social media answer me when I’ve asked questions. I’ve gotten sources for stories using Facebook, set up interviews through Twitter and checked credentials using LinkedIn. These platforms are free and out there for the public use. The public just has to use them.

Your voice matters. Now, if you have something worth
saying, you can be heard.
You can make your own news. We all can.
Let’s get started.
                                         – Dan Gillmor, We the Media: Grassroots Journalism By the People, For the People

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One thought on “A Continued Reflection on Social Media

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