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: http://bit.ly/19Qc7Sy
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.

For the Love of (or Lack Thereof) the Game

It’s no secret that sports are just not my thing.

I will almost always argue there is something better to watch than another game or read than another sports news article about the latest draft pick. Sorry, but if you’re not married to Kristin Cavallari or Victoria Beckham or once dated Jessica Simpson, I probably don’t know who you are (and don’t really care).

Team USA wears Ralph Lauren's Olympic Ceremony cardigans. (Photo Credit: Getty)
Team USA wears Ralph Lauren’s Olympic Opening Ceremony cardigans. (Photo Credit: Getty)

But, I will admit– there are just some sporting events that even us sports-impaired can’t ignore (see my previous post about the Super Bowl), and the Winter Olympics is definitely one of those instances.

My roommate, Kristen, has been talking about the Sochi Olympics weeks before it began and in all honesty, I couldn’t help but think how disinterested I was in watching each time she mentioned it.

However, over the last six days, I’ve tuned-in to a ton of events (mostly thanks to Kristen always having it on in our apartment), and have really loved watching.

Of course, one of my favorite parts has been the Olympic fashion. Unlike so many others, I love Ralph Lauren’s designs for Team USA’s apparel. The ceremony cardigan is undeniably cool, regardless of it’s similarities to a Bill Cosby sweater. And Nike’s podium jacket, with its color-changing “USA” on the back and special message to medal-winners on the inside (and even inside one of the pockets!), exemplifies just how awesome it must be to be an Olympian on Team USA.

Watching the Sochi Olympics has also been an interesting study in social media’s undesirable affect on spreading news before things have even aired in the U.S. (hello, failed opening ceremony snowflake) and spoiling the results of countless events. Thank goodness for spoiler shield apps!

Nike's Team USA Podium Jackets. (Photo Credit: Nike)
Nike’s Team USA Podium Jackets. (Photo Credit: Nike)

So, with the good and the bad (#SochiProblems, anyone?) the Olympics are undoubtedly a fun and special event to watch and really reminds us just how small the world can seem when all the sports-obsessed people of the world join together for two weeks every few years.While it was a bummer to learn Shaun White hadn’t managed to medal at all in this year’s men’s halfpipe event (still can’t believe it!), I wouldn’t change social media’s nature at all. We are, after all, a full  ten hours behind Sochi in central time, and most of us would really hate it if we didn’t get those breaking news updates.

The Year of the Selfie

“Twerk,” “Binge-watch” and “Showrooming,” were all newly coined terms in 2013, but none of them compare to the viral sensation that was the “Selfie.”

The Oxford English Dictionary officially made Selfie (a term us social-media obsessed have been using for what seems like forever) the word of 2013, and said the word had evolved from a social niche social media tag into a mainstream term for a self-portrait photograph.

Kim Kardashian takes a selfie on the red carpet. (Photo Credit: Getty)
Kim Kardashian takes a Selfie on the red carpet. (Photo Credit: Getty)

It seems everyone in the spotlight is taking Selfies and posting them all over their social media sites. Before social media, we used to have to wait for each new People Magazine or Us Weekly to see glossy pictures of our favorite stars taken by the paparazzi. But now, all we have to do is check out Kim Kardashian’s or Justin Beiber’s  Instagram accounts  to see a plethora of daily Selfies.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of these self-portraits is those few notorious Selfies that have gone viral in the last year, including the first-ever “Papal Selfie,” and President Obama’s ill-received Selfie at Nelson Mandela’s funeral. 

Unlike Pope Francis’s Selfie with a few teenagers outside of the Vatican, President Obama’s infamous 2013 Selfie created a viral outpour of disappointment at the President’s seemingly inappropriate decision to take a picture of himself alongside Denmark’s Prime Minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt and Britain’s David Cameron during a world-leader’s funeral.

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President Barack Obama poses for a selfie with Denmark’s Prime Minister Helle Thorning Schmidt and England’s Prime Minister David Cameron during Nelson Mandela’s memorial service. (Photo Credit: Getty)

The news coverage of this particular Selfie was abounding, with the picture itself quickly splashed on every online news outlet and shared by every social media user. After the image’s rapid, viral spread online, the White House even released it’s own set of photos of the President’s trip to South Africa to do some much-needed damage control. 

According to Wikipedia, a viral phenomenon refers to the mass dissemination of an item on the internet or other media. Besides Selfies, we can all easily think of some viral videos (Call Me Maybe, Gangnam Style) and news stories (Kim Kardashian’s engagement to Kanye West, Prince George’s birth) that blew up on social media this year.

Sometimes the best viral videos, photos or stories happen by accident, as was the case of the “What Does the Fox Say?”  video by the Ylvisaker  brothers. In the New York Times article, “The Fox Says, ‘I Can Make You Famous,'” author David Itzkoff states by October, 2013, the viral video had reached No. 6 on Billboard’s Top 100 singles chart and quickly become both a “blessing a burden” to its creators.

Similarly, the article, “When Your Storm Photo Goes Viral,” by Brian Morrissey recounts the perfect timing of a Hurricane Sandy photo posted to Instagram that quickly reached the Twitter audience, mainstream news outlets and web publications. The photo was “almost immediately spread all around,” Morrissey explains, and “it was shared nearly 20,000 times, appeared on The Huffington Post, HLN, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, among others. Some have called it an ‘iconic’ image from the storm.”

One of many Selfies posted by Justin Bieber to his Instagram account. Source: http://bit.ly/1onXEHk
One of many Selfies posted by Justin Bieber to his Instagram account. (Photo Credit: Instagram/@justinbieber)

What makes a particular video, news story or image, like the aforementioned storm photo,  go viral? While the timing of the post definitely helps, I believe the posts content means even more. As Scott Stratten states in his book, UnMarketing: Stop Marketing. Start Engaging., the overall quality and authenticity of a Tweet, Selfie, or story is what makes people want to read it (or view it), talk about it and share it with others. At the end of the day, we’re most interested in videos like “Call Me Maybe,” or “What Does the Fox Say?” because they’re funny and/or catchy songs. We’re most interested in viewing Justin Bieber’s Instagram account because it’s authentic, raw and a direct insight into who the singer is a person, not just a celebrity.

So, the next time you think about sending an awesome Selfie to your friends via SnapChat or posting a cool video on your Facebook, think about it’s value to your audiences. If the timing is right and the content is interesting, it might just go viral and make you our next favorite online sensation.

The Power of Networking

It’s 2014 and, as I’m sure you’re noticed, social media is everywhere. Last night’s broadcast of Super Bowl XLVIII, aka #SuperBowlXLVIII, garnered 24.9 million Tweets, according to mediabistro. This event and so many others (i.e. last weekend’s Grammy Awards), have demonstrated social media’s inherent power to bring people together online and get them talking.

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Photo Credit: Getty

According to ME Marketing Services founder, Mandy Edwardslearning how to effectively use and manage social media accounts is necessary to promote one’s social media presence online. In today’s arguably over-saturated social media sphere, it is clearly important to determine whom your online audience is and what they want to read about in your social media posts to build a diverse network of followers and thus increase your online persona. While watching the Super Bowl last night, I found myself much more interested in the online conversations (shocker, I know) being prompted by the game, the halftime show and the commercials. My interest of course, was furthered by the types of Tweets and Facebook posts I was reading—those published by people in my network who have similar interests (the commercials, not the game) and opinions (which ads were the best, and why) to me. In Lee Rainie and Barry Wellman’s book, Networked: The New Social Operating Systemthe authors present the idea of networked individualism and consider how social media and networking are both socially liberating and socially taxing. As I read through Rainie and Wellman’s evidence to support the Internet’s benefits, I reflected on my own media habits the night before. When I first turned on the Super Bowl, I had two choices—to either watch on my own, form my own opinions of the game, etc. and take a socially liberal approach to viewing the big game, or I could log onto my Facebook and Twitter accounts and read the thoughts and opinions of the millions of others around the country who were also watching. Naturally, my choice was to stay connected throughout the game to others via social media. While my socially taxing approach to watching resulted in my mind filling with new information every minute, I also realized I was totally glued to my cell phone, and no longer interacting with the people whom I was actually watching the game with. But, according to Rainie and Wellman, my actions were O.K., because while social media has provided some stressors, it’s most importantly provided countless opportunities for people to connect, share thoughts and ideas and reach far beyond the people they’re sitting with. The Internet (namely, social media) succeeds in extending my personal reach while also allowing people to reach me, which significantly improves my social media presence, online persona and network. So thanks to Networked’s clear explanation of the benefits of networking online, I will continue to be happily glued to my cell phone during big, televised events (next up is the Oscars, March 2nd!) to interact with others via social media. And for the record: RadioShack’s 80’s themed commercial was far more entertaining than #SuperBowXLVIII.