Is the media too addicted to social media and what does it mean for journalism? Craig Kanalley, an editor at the Huffington Post, took on the topic in a recent post detailing the problems with being addicted with social media. I agree with much of what he writes, including becoming too reliant on social media for reporting. What happened to getting out on the street and knocking on doors and talking to people? Hell, I think too many times reporters sit in an office on the phone rather than getting out and meeting and talking to people.
But there are a few other things Craig touches on that have me thinking.
Are we live tweeting too much?
Craig writes about the debate and how every reporter — both in the room and watching on television — were tweeting what everyone was seeing. That means they were repeating every quote I was hearing come out of my television. What service is it to me or anyone else to just repeat what we are seeing live ourselves? It’s a new version of stenographer journalism.
Live tweeting makes sense when it’s something your readers don’t have easy access to. I’ve been at the scene of fires in a small community and posted live updates and photos. It makes sense since people aren’t watching the fire burn on television. If they’re not seeing an important school board meeting on television, that is important to live tweet too.
But if it’s something everyone is watching (or even live tweeting), how about giving some context and color? If you’ve covered something long enough, you have enough background that you can give those things to your readers. It’s not giving your opinion, it’s providing that extra level of information.
Are we making ourselves bigger than the story?
When I was in graduate school, I had a discussion with a professor and at least one other student about the phenomenon where every reporter wanted to write a book. Our observation was that reporters were not focusing on the story in front of them unfolding and rather were looking ahead to the book they could write. In other words, the reporters were putting themselves in front of the story.
Social media, in a way, is doing that too (as are a lot of other things).
We all want attention for the stories we cover. We want a pat on the back. We also want as many people to read our story as possible, whether they’re seeing it on social media or via a Google search (SEO!). But at what point are we drawing too much attention to ourselves and not the stories we write?
We all certainly should have a personality on social media (we carry that with us every day, don’t we?) and should engage in discussions important to us. But there’s also doing too much of it when you’re reporting and linking to stories. I’ve seen people try to be funny when they’re pushing a story when, in reality, they’re not funny at all. It’s just annoying. Everyone wants to be Buzzfeed, and not everyone can do that. Plus in the process you also could end up offending someone or posting something that could lead to you losing your job.
So where’s the line where it’s being yourself (one of my top recommendations for social media!) and putting yourself ahead of the story? It’s a fine line, that’s for sure. And we have to remember that our jobs are a service to readers. We need to serve their interests best, not our own.