Social media is slowly spreading its tentacles in every possible direction and permeating every part of our life. I check Facebook and Twitter several times a day and every time there are posts with news, announcements, or some other information material. Now that the internet has spread to every possible device including refrigerators it is easier than ever to throw something online for others to read. Everybody who has an internet connection can now be heard online. My Statement of Purpose for my application to University of Florida cited cases where news was reported first on Twitter and only then by actual news channels.
The world of journalism is changing and I am sure that journalists are somewhat uneasy about the change. Although I am not a journalist myself I can understand the concerns that some may feel. While just a few years ago news was the domain of TV and print where respectable journalists double checked facts and wrote stories. Now anyone can report on anything, journalist or not, I believe it is called citizen journalism. The term seems a bit silly since an average person is not a journalist, which would be like calling me a citizen doctor because I have access to WebMD.com. Reading about cancer does not make me an oncologist. However the harsh reality is that reliable news sources are no longer our first source of news. People get swept away by rumors on social media such as the Boston Bombing suspect’s identity to the death of Michael Jackson. Rumors are now more powerful than ever since they can be spread in an instant and unverified information can seem like fact. It is hard to say how journalism will combat this or integrate into it, or if it will at all. My hope is that people grow weary of unsubstantiated rumors and pure propaganda and return to reputable news sources for their information. However journalists need to also integrate and adapt to the speed of news. Maybe the time of a full length article has gone by and it is time to report by Tweet.
Public relations is another curious aspect that is being amalgamated by social media. Trust me, I am no fan of PR professionals, at one time I wanted to leap across a desk during a meeting and punch the so called “PR expert”. However PR is going to become a bigger and bigger piece of every company’s business as social media grows. Now that any given organization can talk and listen to thousands of people at once through the web the proper tone and message become ever so popular. PR can no longer lock themselves in an office to stew over a press release and emerge a week later with a statement that is supposedly the greatest piece of writing known to mankind. Reponses have to be quick and timely, the turnaround time is less than a day, sometimes less than an hour. It will be an interesting question whether social media and PR will become the one and the same.
Questions to Ponder
- Should the offices of PR and social media be rolled into one in a company?
- How can journalists keep up with the rapid proliferation of information?
- Why are PR people so smug?