Social Media Week Notes: What next for the media landscape?

Elena Plaiter
Many moons ago, in between trips to the library/student bar, and the Student Radio station, I studied for a degree in journalism. Journalism theory, the history of journalism, investigative journalism (where I spent an unhealthy amount of time following a local counsellor), and of course online journalism. 

Back then, blogs were just emerging, the BBC news site looked very different, and Twitter and Facebook weren’t around. So i love a good debate about the future of journalism, the news agenda and the media landscape.

Fortunately for me, and many others there was a panel session for Social Media Week called What’s next… for the media landscape: the struggle for control over the news agenda, with panellists including @carlabuzasi (Ed-in-chief, Huffington Post UK), @jhowze (co-founder, Britmums) and @alexisak (BBC Multimedia producer).

There is a  twitter feed from the event and there’s a few jots on interesting points below, which is by no means a comprehensive analysis into what’s next for the media landscape – that question will never be answered!

Journalism hasn’t changed 

The scrum to break news first shouldn’t mean sacrificing journalistic integrity. Check your sources, check your accuracy, check the legal implications of what you are about to tweet.  The medium may have changed but journalism skills haven’t.

It’s easy to forget this on social media, when retweeting is so easy, and it’s hard to find the original source.

Remember that getting it wrong can ruin your reputation and cause supporters to abandon you. It’s better to be right.

However, at least with digital, unlike print, you can quickly make corrections and additions.

The new public sphere

The invention of new technology (printing press, radio, internet, social media) has changed the way and the speed in which information is disseminated, but communication of news is vital for democracy. From the market squares of Ancient Greece, to chatting over the garden fence, and now wider participatory in the public arena via website commenting and Twitter, the fundamentals remain the same.

Breaking news V breaking views

The amount of ‘news’ and comment on news in the social media raises the question of whether we are sacrificing quality for quantity, objectivity for opinion.

As @caztellations says: Social Media can also amplify useless voices…

The medium must adapt

To completely bastardise an old quote, you can read the news tomorrow, watch TV news tonight, listen to a radio news bulletin at the top of hour, but you can get it on digital now.

“20 million people in UK read newspapers, 61% in the evening” says @evakeogan. But how much of that news is out of date by the time they read it?

Reports that editors are telling a web team to save a story for print is an old fashioned idea, says @jhowze

Social media and the news agenda shape each other

What’s happening in the news today could shape your news feed, and your world – the media sources you follow and what your followers have to say about that will inform and shape your opinions.

And what’s happening in your world can be shared on Twitter and influence the news agenda. I’m sure many examples will spring to mind, not least the Arab Spring.

But the relationship between social media and the news agenda isn’t as straightforward as that. What about when social media coverage of a story becomes the story? What if that leads to a deeper analysis of the original story? Or springs a new story? What if that leads to a revolutions? Where does it stop?

#spainisnotuganda or #ugandaisnotspain was given as an example. Story on Spain economy, comparison to Uganda, sarcastic hashtag saturates social media, this becomes a story in itself, news reports begin to compare Spain and Uganda, and we learn more about Uganda.

Blogging disrupts the media status quo

It’s not just paid journalists who make the news now. You don’t need to work for a media powerhouse to be a journalist – free blogging platforms and social media mean you can make your own news agenda.

Make sure your content is well researched and well written though!

Lines between professional and personal life for journalists are blurring

It’s inevitable that you will become personally interested in the stories you work on in your professional life. What you tweet about, and who you follow will cease to be distinguished for ‘personal’ or ‘professional’ use.

So what do you think is next? Will anything change as new platforms emerge? What will the media landscape look like in 5,10, 50 years?

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