The phones and social media has introduced a

The desire to share information with each other
has always been an aspect of human nature; though the ways people share
information has changed drastically.  The
topic I selected to write about is Social Media Platforms and Journalism.  The development of innovation keeps on
altering the news coverage industry. Televisions, computers and the web are
among numerous advancements which have fundamentally affected the way in which
news is investigated, composed and distributed. 
The internet and social media has greatly affected and changed the way
journalism is practiced and the way people receive the news today.  Mayfield (2008) states that “social media is
best understood as a group of new kinds of online media, which share most of
all of the following characteristics: participation, openness, conversation,
community, and connectedness” (p. 5). 
Social media is quick, it’s free, and it’s constantly with you in your
pocket thanks to your smartphone.                                                                                    Older types of
writing constantly had some degree of holdup between the time something   happened and the time the information was available
to the consumer. For example, before televisions, the majority of people got
their news from the daily paper. This type of news-casting caused an estimated
24-hour delay, as it needed somebody to compose the article, the manufacturing
plant required to print the document, and afterward, it will eventually be
brought to the consumer the following day for purchase. With social media,
consumers can now get news articles on their smartphones about as quick as the
writer can compose it. The use of advanced mobile phones and social media has
introduced a new age of news coverage as citizens assume a more significant
part of the news making process. With the help of platforms such as Twitter and
Facebook, people can generate and distribute their own news stories which can often
be selected by conventional news sources. Large news establishments used to
have enormous control over people as they controlled the spread of data which
they could use to manipulate the population. However, with the introduction of
social media, people can share news among themselves much more efficiently
which has prompted a decrease in the use of traditional news media. Social
media has given power back to the general population.                                                                                                                                   Although
some scholars believe that social media is threatening journalism, there is
sufficient evidence suggesting it brings new opportunities that further its
credibility.  Social media includes the numerous
online technology tools that enable people to communicate quickly and to share
information and resources via the internet. 
The ever-increasing popularity of social media due
to the popularization of the internet as well as the universal access to mobile
phones and handheld devices has seen social media being used for news
production by ordinary people. As a result, some scholars have been quick to
suggest that social media platforms are a threat to journalism. In this essay,
however, I argue that social media has created more opportunities.                 Literature
reviewed shows that most scholars believe that social media is impacting
negatively on the practice of journalism. These scholars mainly argue from a
technophobic stand and think social media has brought along many changes to the
practice of journalism thereby undermining the work of journalists. Their arguments
point out the easy-to-use
web publishing tools, popularization of social media, increasingly powerful
mobile devices as well as the active online audience that is actively involved
in the creation and circulation of news and information. In a 2003 report, New
Directions for News argued that journalism found itself at an unusual moment in
history where its dominance as the gatekeeper of the news is threatened not
just by new technology and competitors but, possibly, by the audience it served
(Rosen, 2005).  Orville Schell, of the
University of California at Berkeley’s journalism school, further acknowledged
the impact of the audience on journalism. 
He noted that the Roman Empire of the mass media was breaking up, and
the media was entering an almost-feudal period where there will be many more struggles
of power and influence (Rosen, 2005).                                                                                 One
line of argument is that social media has democratized the media, therefore,
challenging the control of traditional news media and its journalists. Scholars
claim that by doing so, social media was forcing journalists into a precarious
position where they no longer control the interpretation of events and
ultimately what is published. Bowman and Willis (2003)
argue that “a democratized media challenges the notion of the institutional
press as the exclusive, privileged, trusted informed intermediary of the news”
(p. 47). Gillmor (2004) states that “the communication network itself will be a medium for everyone’s voice,
not just the few who can afford to buy multimillion-dollar printing presses,
launch satellites, or win the government’s permission to squat on the public’s
airwaves” (p. xiii).  Bowman and Willis
(2003) also maintain that while social media platforms
are unlikely to replace traditional media as primary intermediaries quickly,
they were becoming valued news outlets that direct their readers to information
of interest and help them filter, simplify and clarify news.  As a result of this journalists are no longer
in control of the news agenda as social media has empowered ordinary people to
be outright producers of news. A special report on the news industry in the
Economist (2011) acknowledges this stating, “thanks to the rise of social media,
news is no longer gathered exclusively by reporters and turned into a story but
emerges from an ecosystem in which journalists, sources, readers and viewers
exchange information.” This means that in the social media era people no longer
rely solely on
journalists for their view on the world.                                                              The
challenge to media domination is seen as a result of the democratization social
media has embraced most Web 2.0 features that empowers everyone, including
journalists to publish on the web. This is possible because the read and write network
(personal websites, blogs, and forums) have reduced costs associated with
distributing content to virtually nothing thereby making it possible for people
to feed material into the mainstream media. By loosening control over
knowledge, social media has, therefore, threatened the relevance of journalists
as established interpreters of events. According to Gazette (2006), this means
that social media is replacing the role of journalists as gatekeepers. As a
result of the growing number of websites, reporters no longer have control over
the nature of news that is published because news that is prevented from getting
onto one site is likely to make it through onto another. This has not only made
journalists redundant as gatekeepers but also made it difficult for them to set
the agenda. It is given that some scholars argue that journalists are in danger
of becoming irrelevant due to the rise of social media.                                                                                                                                                       Newman
(2009), also noted that social networks are advanced in reporting where news is
broken and sometimes runs hours ahead of traditional news organizations. As per Morejon (2012), “nearly
half of all Americans get some form of local news on a mobile device, and 46%
of people get their news online at least three times a week.” The ability of
social media to beat traditional media with breaking news is made possible
because social media can easily reach where traditional media cannot and by the
fact that social media can outperform news sites regarding audience
engagements. This was proved by a 2009 Alexa research, which established that
the “average daily time spent on Facebook is 25 minutes, compared with around
five minutes for a popular news sites” (Newman, 2009: p.40).  This decline in importance of traditional
media in breaking the news has led scholars to conclude social media will make
journalists irrelevant and redundant since they are more likely to be found
repeating what has already been reported. Evidence to this redundancy is shown
as traditional news media are redefining their roles by abandoning attempts to
be the first with breaking news while shifting their focus at being the best at
verifying and packaging news (Newman, 2009: p.12).

line of argument is that social media encourages the development of citizen
journalism – an act by which “people formerly known as the audience employ the
press tools they have in their possessions to inform on another” (Rosen, 2008).
Scholars believe citizen journalism have been useful in telling some stories
that are left out by mainstream journalists who are constrained by
organizational and professional constraints. The ability of citizen journalists
to produce news has been revealed by the fact that some stories initiated by
social media end up making it into mainstream media. Newman (2009) alleged:

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are using user generated content not as a primary source but to extend the life
of         stories, as a way of adding
more perspective and insight, not just as way to let people talk        amongst themselves, but actually with a
purpose to generate more leads and more insight                  (p.

According to Gillmor (2004), “the ability of anyone to
make the news will give new voice to people who’ve felt voiceless – and whose
words we need to hear” (p. xviii). This new voice is only
possible in a place free of ethical and quality control measures, which might
impose limits on how people express themselves. Most importantly, is that citizen journalism will prevent the control of
journalists and therefore challenge their power to control the interpretation
of the world. It is for this reason that social
media is accused of the blurring of boundaries between journalists and
non-journalists. Bloggers,
for instance, provides unmediated coverage of events and different angles to
stories that might be missing from mainstream news and in many ways, challenges
the skills of traditional journalists putting then at risk of being outdated as
it continues with its evolution.

the arguments above, I argue that social media is a goldmine that provides
journalists with a new set of skills and opportunities.  My argument is inspired by Newman (2009) who
proclaims that “social media, blogs and UGC are not replacing journalism, but
they are creating an important extra layer of information and diverse opinion
(p. 2).  These new skills and
opportunities are possible because social media has added and improved the
dimension of communication making it two-way and interactive.  Social media has simplified many things, and
even the journalism sector acquired many things through internet journalism.
Toumi (2011) maintains that “modern social media have changed the landscape of
journalism and have paved the way for more ‘opportunities’ rather than
threatened the existence of traditional form of reporting.”  Quigley (2010) believes
the role of traditional journalists as interpreters remains unchanged, but the
need for journalists is even more necessary now than ever before because “when
rumors are running wild, journalists can verify what’s really going on and report
it through social media channels.”  

The possibility of journalists being laid off
as a result of social media is far from being possible given the
abundance of news channels, information, and sources that are now available for
direct access to users through social media. This has severely complicated the
way readers to find and follow important stories as well as establish the truth.
Pavlik (2003) blames all that on
the open nature of social media that results in ordinary people reporting and
engaging with the news thereby raising the potential for misinformation. Social
media makes verification of issues difficult because it creates an information
overload on the part of the audiences who often are not intelligible enough to filter
for truth. Guardian’s director of publishing, Simon Waldman, argued that social media (blogs, text messages, and
pictures), increases the volume of information but the most significant weakness
with such data is that it lacks shape, structure and, ultimately meaning (Gazette, 2006). Waldman also argued that the surplus
of stories coming from social media requires journalistic
skills of reducing, prioritizing and shaping information, which aids
understanding and adds meaning (Gazette, 2006). 
Journalists are therefore still vital in the social media era because
they help to piece
together the occurrences using images, videos and eyewitness accounts. This
necessity of journalists as trusted mediators of reality in the social media
age is further reinforced by Newman (2009) who
concluded that:                                                     Most people are still happy to rely on mainstream news
organisations to sort fact from fiction
and serve up a filtered view, but they are increasingly engaged by this         information, particularly when
recommended by friends or another trusted source (p. 2). It is obvious from this statement that the
traditional journalistic process is vital in adding meaning and understanding
and without them, it will be much harder to make sense of what is happening in
the world.                                                                                                                            Also,
social media is not threatening journalism because it has given birth to
networked journalism. As per Beckett (2010), networked journalism means:                                                                      a synthesis
of traditional news journalism and the emerging forms of participatory media enabled by Web 2.0 technologies such as mobile
phones, email, websites, blogs, micro-    blogging,
and social networks. Networked Journalism allows the public to be involved in      every aspect of journalism production
through crowd-sourcing, interactivity, hyper-      linking,
user-generated content and forums. It changes the creation of news from being       linear and top-down to a collaborative
process (p.1).                                                          In
this case, social media has enhanced the practice of
journalism by enabling networked journalism that thrives on information from
various sources. Social media has improved interactivity
between journalists and audiences as well as within audiences themselves,
making them more responsive to media. Quigley (2010) states that:                                                                   with
story and blog comments, Twitter and Facebook, that responsiveness comes much        more naturally, and more quickly. Readers
can now react and be heard in real time during      news
events, and the benefits go both ways. People are more likely than ever to
share our       work with their online
circle of friends and family, giving us an expanded audience.      As per Bowman and Willis (2003), “networked
journalism nurtures the development of real communities around journalists,
stories, and the media organization’s brand involvement. With a weblog, for
example, a reporter has a place to extend reporting, interact with readers,
exercise personal conscience, and share some level of personality that might be
absent from his ‘unbiased’ reports” (p.55). Journalism
researcher Mark Deuze in Bowman and Willis (2003) believes that networked
journalism will also lead to better stories and better journalism. He,
therefore, asserts that “the internet as it wires millions of individuals as
potential information experts into global communications infrastructure
provides an ideal platform for improving journalism by incorporating the
expertise of people of people outside” (p. 55). 
Networked journalism has enabled journalists to tell stories much
better, taking advantage of various multimedia components. By doing so, social
media will lead to improved journalism as some stories are told best in print while some are
visual and require video, photos, and/or
graphics.                      Furthermore,
social media has provided an opportunity for traditional media journalists to
provide comprehensive accounts of news stories. Unlike traditional newspapers
and broadcast news reports that limited the space available in a newspaper/broadcast,
the online setting offers virtually unlimited column space and airtime. This
has further enabled informal collaboration of journalistic work through
crowd-sourcing, which further adds more depth to the news produced. Scholars
argue that rather than relying on a single journalist to consider or present
all sides of the story social media enables a more extensive and potentially
more diverse community of users to collaborate as producers of a more
comprehensive form of news coverage that would have been possible under the
pressures of traditional media. As per Gans (2003), this leads to “multiperspectival
news reporting, encompassing fact and opinion reflecting all possible
perspectives” (p. 103). He further pointed out that through collaboration,
social media provides space for presenting unrepresented perspectives, unpublicized
facts, and unrepresented or seldom reported parts of the population. By doing
so, social media is helping traditional news
reporters to interact with readers and sources. Such interaction not only
allows journalists to get instant feedback on their work but also to gather
meaningful tips and build valuable relationships with audiences
(Quigley, 2010).                                                                                                    Additionally,
social media has benefited the journalism profession through increasing
interactivity thereby enabling even the younger audience to participate. This
has not only improved the quality of stories as suggested above but also
enhanced the potential of the media to attract a younger audience who happen to
be the next generation of news consumers. According Newman (2009), social
networks “score well with young people, the demographic group which newspapers
fear will never buy their products and which is beginning to desert   traditional broadcast news and current
affairs programmes” (p. 41). The appeal to younger population derives from the
interactive media experience that young people have become accustomed to
through the use of other interactive devices such as instant messenger and
computer games which promotes a two-way street of communication (Bowman and Willis,
2003). The interactive quality of social media has therefore been assumed by
traditional media and is proving to be important in helping news media reclaim
audiences’ trust by involving them in the news making process. A Guardian
journalist acknowledged:                                                                     we
are using user generated content not as a primary source but to extend the life
of   stories, as a way of adding more
perspective and insight, not just as way to let people talk     amongst themselves but actually with a
purpose to generate more leads and more insight”          (Newman, 2009: p. 13).                                                                                       
Collaborating and having a conversation
with audience members extends news stories and also increases retention,
understanding and gives more room for sharing and discussing news stories.                  Apart from the above, social
media is an opportunity for journalists as it has led to increased trust in the
media through promoting participatory engagement. Scholars believe
participatory journalism provides media companies with the potential to develop
a more loyal and trustworthy relationship with their audiences. This engagement
can be achieved through reporters writing a story and then asking the audience
to have their input through providing tips, feedback, and first-hand accounts
that confirm a story’s premise or take it in a different direction. Bowman and Willis
(2003) noted that:                                                                                          Involving an audience, either small
or large, in the creation of content also give them a     sense of ownership – an affinity with the media brand that they
believe they are not             getting
today – as well as a more intimate relationship with the storytellers (p.
53).        An example
of such initiatives that have proved a success include the CNN iReport platform
that invites content from users which are then vetted and verified by its team
of experts before being used.                                                                                                                                                       To
conclude, given the numerous arguments that show the advantages provided by
social media towards the practice of journalism including providing opportunities
for collaboration, networked journalism, and comprehensive accounts, I maintain
that even in the social media era journalists are still relevant, probably even
more relevant now. While the negative impact of social media including the
challenge to media hegemony, dominance in breaking news and dominance in
audience engagements can never be taken for granted, the role of journalists as
filters and mediators remain crucial. Newman (2009) capture the whole argument
when he said, “social networks provide competition to traditional publishers
for consumer attention and at the same time they are opening up new ways of
engaging and connecting with audiences” (p. 42). Despite the paranoia that
social media is quickly taking the control of traditional journalists thereby
making them irrelevant, the absence of appropriate journalistic training means
citizen journalists are unable to effectively provide a clear account of
events, leaving room for conservative journalists as a voice of authority. As a
result, any conclusion
dismissing traditional media journalists are still too early while at the same
time glorifying social media as a replacement of traditional journalism is


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