Social Media – a reliable source for journalists?

This week the Guardian online posted a blog on the rise of social media as a relevant source of information for journalists, as revealed by a recent US survey which claimed that 56% of reporters view it as an important tool for producing stories. The research carried out by Cision and The George Washington University, showed that over 89% of journalists make use of blogs while conducting their online research, with two thirds turning to social networking sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn.

But, is this a good thing? Are journalism standards slipping?

There is certainly a strong advantage to using social media as part of journalistic research. Its global reach and speed means that stories can be documented and sourced as they are taking place – the New York Hudson River plane crash is a great example. Ferry passengers were able to tweet about the accident before TV crews even got to the scene.

However, social media shouldn’t be used as the sole source for stories, but rather it should sit alongside public relations – providing interviews and access to sources and experts to help paint a fuller picture. It still begs the question as to why the media is so obsessed with social networking?

Phenomenon! Everyone loves to be in the middle of a newly discovered craze and social media is currently it! Flick through the national papers and there will undoubtedly be a story relating to social media. As a PR professional, I have been told by numerous news desks and news agencies that stories relating to Facebook or Twitter stand a much higher chance of being selected than those that don’t.

Why? Because social networking provides that much needed human interest angle that the media loves, especially tabloid papers. The fashion designer, Alexander McQueen died tragically last week but rather than lament on the fashion world’s loss guess what the papers chose to write about…the string of ‘weird’ Twitter posts that he had left during the run up to his death.

So, celebrities and politicians be afraid. It’s no longer what’s lurking behind your closet that matters but what’s lurking on your Facebook and Twitter page!

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