Where do you go for information when a news event breaks? Twitter? Your news site of choice? Google? Or wait for tomorrow’s front page?
Every day, I see Tweets about how printed newspapers now just report events we already know about. In a way, it’s true – Twitter and Facebook have become the first port of call for real-time information: Phone line down? Check Twitter to see if it’s happening to others nearby. Want to know the latest from the Olympics? Twitter trends or a quick Google search will let you know the latest developments. (This website has a nice infographic on Social Media as a news source).
It’s not even just that print media is out of date when it comes to event reporting; even news websites can seem slow off the mark as well. During the hostage situation on Tottenham Court Road this year, it took websites hours to show even a sign of activity. In the meantime, social media and blogs had already published hundreds of photos, videos and written accounts from witnesses.
So, how have things changed since we wrote that article? Has the rise of social media meant the death of journalism? And how does this relate to those wanting to make their mark in the world of online content writing/blogging?
Developments in News Reporting
Last week, the Metro published a profile of Storyful, a website started by Mark Little – an experienced journalist who saw the value of embracing social journalism. We are coming to the end of the days where news websites can’t report something until they have sent a journalist to the site (with a photographer) to get the info. Instead of reactively reporting on news and events, Storyful finds others who are proactively reporting from the front line (sometimes literally) and presents the stories (photos, videos and written accounts) to media networks. By doing this, Storyful is the first to break the story and becomes the agency that links the media to those who can give them the content they so badly need.
Moving With the Times – The Guardian
In a society where people want – and expect – news made available online as it happens, there is a growing concern about accuracy and context. Where papers used to have time to support the news reporting with background and fact-checking, the website who spends the most time fact checking their report will be the site who misses out on traffic because everyone’s already satisfied their curiosity elsewhere. As Mark Little says, “old journalistic skills…we’ve never needed them more than we do now” – no online news site or Twitter feed will keep its viewers if it demonstrates a lapse in quality of reporting. He emphasises how important it is for traditional journalism to move with the changes, and described journalists as “information managers” who “give a layer of authority, context…important details…to make it useful”.
This is perhaps reflected in the Guardian’s relaunch of their online service in February. As a nod to the changes driven by social media and social journalism, the Guardian made a bold effort to keep itself relevant in a market that is very quickly going online. Using an example of how they might report an updated tale of Three Little Pigs as it breaks, their model emphasises online reporting of events as they happen, backed up by detail, background, debate and analysis in the printed papers. The idea, of course, being that people would still buy the newspapers because they would get more than online; and that the printed content would not be irrelevant because it’s not supposed to be breaking. You go to the website for one thing and buy the paper for another – meaning the business doesn’t have to compete with itself.
The Times newspaper took another approach to a fall in print sales, and put its online content behind a paywall. Revenue has been enough for it to claim success, but small enough (and slowing down) for rivals to claim it a failure. We said in our post two years ago that “maybe we are just not ready for paid news” – with the rocketing number of blog rolls and news feeds on social media, could it be that we will never be prepared to pay for our news?
Authorship and Quality
Everyone’s a Journalist
As running one’s own blog becomes more commonplace, everyone who writes and publishes content on their blog can now call themselves a writer by definition.
A journalist is another matter. Being a journalist is a profession with high standards to maintain. But many blogger/writers are calling themselves journalists – which can cause mistrust between the printed and the online worlds. Seeing bloggers tweeting #JournoRequests to PRs in the search of freebies is not really what journalism is for.
Of course, people can move from blogging to journalism, but only through hard work and adhering to standards. Despite the snowballing number of blogs and news platforms vying for the top spot on Google, measures are being put in place to reward credible authorship. Google now shows snippets of Google Plus profiles in results pages when it recognises an author by line as someone who is influential (and who by association should be credible) in that subject area.
So, if you are a blogger or content writer who is becoming recognised as a credible voice in your niche, you should not only be meticulous about fact checking but you should be building up your profile in Google Plus. Make sure your website links to this, and that your G+ account links back to the place(s) you publish your content.
As we said two years ago, print and online media has had to keep changing to keep up with the way news breaks over social networks. Instead of seeking out the news to break, journalism now has to react when it breaks on social media. Initiatives such as Storyful keep journalism fresh, and makes it possible for online news media to report quickly with a voice from the front line. Print media has had to change, which some publications have managed more successfully than others.
Professional news reporting is just as valuable as ever but now takes a slightly different form – social journalism is no longer the future, it is the present. As it becomes easier for everyone to make their own web content public, the battle to break news first or be top of Google when people are looking for news, becomes tougher.
Whilst blogging and publishing web content is becoming easier and more commonplace, a news or opinion platform can only gain credibility by consistently providing trustworthy information. This can only be achieved by following journalism techniques of old: having an original voice, writing with a high standard of spelling and grammar and always making sure your facts are correct.
Whilst the future of journalism is still somewhat unclear, it most certainly isn’t dead.