Facebook (Photo: Spencer E Holtaway)

The Explosion of Social Media and the News

[Note: This blog was posted in advance of a class discussion at Michigan State University’s School of Journalism.]

Hi everyone, ahead of our discussion on social media and news I thought I would pass along a few conversation starters.

Professor Detjen and I thought it might be good to talk about some of the background on the growth of social media and perhaps provide a some interesting examples of the many ways it is being used.

A great place to start (if you haven’t seen it yet) is this TED talk from social media researcher and NYU prof Clay Shirky.

Shirky (author of some very good books, here and here) gives the background on the media landscape of the 20th century and suggests:

The Internet is the first medium in history that has native support for groups and conversation at the same time. The phone gave us the one to one pattern; TV, radio, magazines, newspapers gave us the one to many pattern.

The Internet is the many to many pattern.

The Internet has disrupted media and created a landscape where everyone has the power of publication. It’s a two way conversation for the first time in history. Dan Gillmor has famously called this shift in the audience, the “former audience”.

NYU J-school Prof and “future of news” thinker Jay Rosen elaborates on the former audience here.

What kind of interaction with users (readers/listeners etc) have you had with your journalism? What benefits or problems could result with more user engagement?

It turns out the former audience has a lot to say. Not only are new voices being heard, but people can now find one another and organize.

Where I work we have been actively covering the uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East. It’s truly been a remarkable year first with Tunisia, then Egypt and now Libya. Social media has played a major role in facilitating conversation and organization.

Social media tools like Facebook and Twitter have been tremendously important tools for journalists covering the uprisings. One journalist I wanted to highlight is Andy Carvin. During the Arab Spring Carvin has been aggregating and curating streams of information about the protests across the Middle East and North Africa.

Internet thought leader and researcher Ethan Zuckerman spoke with Carvin about Twitter in the Arab Spring.

Is curration journalism? What role does curration have in journalism? What challenges arise with source verification using social media?

Another interesting example of the use of social media and storytelling is the @MayorEmanuel Twitter account “deftly satirizing Rahm Emanuel”. @MayorEmanuel was written by Dan Sinker. Take a look at Alexis Madrigal’s piece on how Sinker took the 140 character platform to new heights.

How can social media tools help improve storytelling?

One last little exchange about social media that is fodder for more conversation was what former NYTimes Executive Editor Bill Keller called “The Twitter Trap“. Also take a look at the response from Bits blog Nick Bilton.

Does social media make you stupid? What impact could this have on journalism?

There’s probably too much here for a 20 minute conversation but I thought I would put these few examples forward to see what you think. It you have questions or want to get a jump on the conversation, add a comment below.

I’m looking forward to chatting with you.


[Photo: Spencer E Holtaway]