Traditional Journalism vs. Social Media

“The news story is suffering an identity crisis,” says Kira Goldenberg in “The Genuine Article.”

This seemingly simple, yet jarring, statement made me stop and think about today’s news and just how much traditional media has truly been turned on its head thanks to new news outlets, like Twitter, Facebook or blogs. It’s easy to reflect on how much social media has changed news. But, is the information posted or Tweeted out at every second of the day even count as news anymore? How do we begin to edit our traditional definition of news to fit these new parameters?

To begin answering these questions, I first looked to Alfred Hermida’s article, “Twittering the News: The Emergence of Ambient Journalism,” to find a definition for traditional journalism. Hermida states, “traditional journalism defines fact as information and quotes from official sources, which have been identified as forming the mass majority of news and information content.”

So, journalism involves a structured story with reliable sources who inform the masses, right? Doesn’t sound like it, especially when we’re considering how much news is spread via social media. According to Amy Gahran, author of the article, “The Lego Approach to Storytelling,” the story, a finished, edited, packaged piece of content with a narrative structure, hardly exists anymore and has become a “luxury or byproduct in today’s information ecosystem.” Furthermore, many communication professionals question how reliable social media sites, especially Twitter, can be. 

Boston Globe reporter Billy Baker narrates a young man's journey to Yale University. Source:
Boston Globe reporter Billy Baker narrates a young man’s journey to Yale University. (Photo Credit: Twitter/@billy_baker)

However, I’ll argue that while modern journalism might not always feature structured stories and reliable sources, it certainly triumphs in disseminating information to the masses and sometime, in some very special instances, it succeeds in being wonderfully narrative.

Billy Baker if proof that a sense of traditional journalism still exists in the wake of social media. In fact, Baker wouldn’t have been able to tell one particularly uplifting and importantly personal story without social media’s ability to grab readers with just 140 characters and present a story in such an impactful manner.

“I GOT IN,” presented as an experiment by Baker via Twitter, tells the story of a young Vietnamese student who is accepted to his “dream school,” Yale University. The story begins with the Tweet, “I’m going to tell you a story.” Mid-way through, Baker Tweets, “Sorry for flooding you with this experiment. But it’s a story about what’s right when we spend too much time writing about what’s wrong.”

The takeaway? Baker undoubtedly demonstrates just how amazing social media can be in presenting not just news, but inspiring stories about real-life people who are making a difference in the world and following their dreams. As we know, Twitter can be great for breaking news and providing minute-by-minute updates on major news events, but it can also present traditional news stories in attention-grabbing, impactful and interesting manners and garner engagement with news like never before. Social media may not fit seamlessly into our definition of traditional journalism, but we’re lucky to have it.

One thought on “Traditional Journalism vs. Social Media

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