Twitter and Journalism

The digital age has revolutionised the media industry for journalists and readers alike. Not only has it reinvented the way we access and read our news, but also the ways in which journalists source and write their articles. The major factor for the shifting landscape of the journalism industry is Twitter. Without a doubt the most influential application to be released over the past decade, Twitter gives us access to an unlimited amount of news material and it’s all at the touch of a button.

There are a number of positive and negative bi-products of Twitter that need to be considered when assessing its impact on journalism.

The two traditional phases of the news cycle are now void. In the past, journalists would act as gatekeepers, where a story would be written and published before the public then had chance to read it and reply via an opinion or comment piece. As a result of Twitter, users have to ability to comment on articles immediately and actually communicate with the author.

It is this immediate nature of Twitter that has essentially ended the concept of ‘the scoop’ as we knew it. In the past, if a journalist broke a new headline than it would typically remain as a breaking story for at least 24 hours. Now however, when somebody breaks a news story it’s lucky to last two minutes before people are Tweeting similar headlines and writing their own account of events.

twitter-journalism2

This has the potential to be very dangerous, where “51% of PR professionals agreed that the reliability of news has decreased due to social media and [a] lack of fact-checking” (Kemsley, 2014). A recent example of exactly this came after the death of South Africa model Reeva Steenkamp. Just hours after the story broke on Twitter, there were a number of wild theories and facts being thrown around which were later proved to be completely false.

Perhaps the silver lining on this cloud is that journalists on Twitter have the power to rectify their errors and update their article as the facts become clearer.

Twitter has a huge appeal for journalists because it gives them access to the opinions and comments of people around world. By identifying what is ‘trending’, journalists can essentially give the people what they want by writing articles about hot topics.

Similar to this, the ‘Retweet’ and ‘Share’ functions are crucial for online journalists. The more people that Share of Retweet their article, the greater their audience size, background and reach.

Knowing that having more ‘followers’ is the key to reaching a greater audience, the online identity and reputation of journalists has become more important than ever. Presenting a positive and successful image is an inherent human desire, and this is no different online.

realtwitterjournalism

Presenting a desirable identity of one’s self has become a lot easier to manipulate and design, given the emergence of social networking sites. This is crucial for journalists, who traditionally need to have a positive reputation in order to secure major news stories and interviews with key witnesses. With so many different news sites online, it becomes all the more important for journalists to project a strong, trustworthy and professional image. Intrinsically connected to this, journalists need to be able to produce a well-researched, in depth article, one that users can justify paying a digital subscription for. In an age where citizen journalists have become more and more prominent, the battle to be considered a legitimate and major news site is a tough one.

social-media-reputation-trust-profile-identity

Likewise for citizen journalists, gaining the trust of the public can often be an issue in itself, particularly when you’re just starting out. Unsurprisingly, most experts agree that to be considered a legitimate news site the author is best served to follow the MEAA Code of Ethics. By promoting the values of honesty, independence, fairness and respect, will subsequently allow you to produce fair and professional news article.

Twitter has changed the media industry indefinitely and as a result journalism and its key structures have evolved. The media industry is a dynamic environment that is constantly adapting and changing to keep up with the new technologies it has become so reliant on.

References

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Finding Credibility

Credibility is one of the most vital aspects of journalism, a trait that ultimately allows the media to fulfil its role as the fourth estate. With the rise of digital journalism and countless technological innovations, credibility, reliability and ethical considerations have become all the more important. In particular, the ability to recognise a credible site and/or news article is a vital skill, especially given the massive amounts of news material available online.

For better or worse though, the appearance of a news site will play a massive role in judging the credibility of its content, and that’s before an article on the site has been read.

For the most part, people judge credibility in one of four ways – even if they aren’t aware of it. These fours aspects make up ‘Fogg’s model of perceived credibility’, as seen below.

Foggs Model

Surface credibility relates to the appearance of a website and plays a clinical role in how the user perceives and judges the site.

I’m sure everyone has experienced online shopping at one point or another, and much like digital journalism, our first impressions are formed on the aesthetics of the site itself.

Take for example this website screen shot below. Immediately even by looking at the title ‘Welcome winner’ it screams dodgy. Further exploration of the site reveals it does not have Paypal or any other secure banking methods. These are just a few examples of the subconscious checklist we have developed to help decipher what we do and do not trust.

Dodgy Site

Credibility in journalism is no different to online shopping, where we are more inclined to put our trust in the big companies and disregard the less well-known sources.

The significance of surface credibility was reinforced in a recent study conducted at the University of California. The study collected data from 574 participants who were asked to assess the perception of message, site, and sponsor credibility, across four different genre websites (Flanigan, Metzger, 2007)

The results were striking; whereby credibility assessments appear to be primarily associated with design features, content depth and site complexity, rather than a familiarity with the websites sponsors (Flanigan, Metzger, 2007)

Given the overwhelming response by participants, it becomes clear just how important it is for bloggers to design and maintain their site in a way that looks trustworthy and professional. Particularly when bloggers can often have significantly more credibility and honour in what they are trying to achieve, as opposed to media organisations which can often be influenced by commercial gains.

On the flip side of the coin though, many media practitioners place more emphasis on social validation as opposed to traditional expert sources in recognising credibility (Hargittai, et al., 2010). Again, this further reinforces the benefits interacting and commenting on other blogs that you find interesting. Blogging is a two part activity, it is about writing your own articles, and then similarly critically reading and reviewing other blogs!

One interesting tactic I found for improving the credibility of your blog is by ‘guest posting’. Guest posting is when another user gives you the opportunity to write an entry on their blog, this adds diversity and a foreign opinion. If you do get the opportunity to guest blog, then you can also display their logo on your site and vice versa – this is usually done on the sidebar or near the main navigation bar. No matter what the location though, this well an truly raises the credibility of your blog (Jan, 2014)

With all of this in mind, it looks like I may need to brush up on my tech skills and give this WordPress a little bit more credibility!

References

  • Flanagin, A., Metzger, M., 2007, ‘The role of site features,user attributes, and information verification behaviors on the perceived credibility of web-based information’, New Media and Society, volume 9, no.2, pp.319.
  • Hargittai, E., Fullerton, L., Menchen–Trevino, E.,Thomas, L,. 2010. ‘Trust online: Young adults’ evaluation of Web content,’ International Journal of Communication, volume 4, pp. 468.
  • Jan, M., 2014, ‘5 Ways to Add Credibility to your Website & Attract a Bigger Audience’, writing happiness.com, Accessed: 4/9/2014, http://writinghappiness.com/add-credibility-blogging/