The digital age has made information an essential part of society. New technologies such as computers, smartphones, and the Internet have increased both the availability and accessibility of this information. Individuals now have the freedom to post, comment, and search nearly any topic with just a few clicks. It is no longer necessary to wait for the 6 o’clock evening news to hear what’s going on in the world.
Internet browser homepages offer individuals’ links to the latest news, however many resort to social media sites for their information.
Internet users spend an average of 17 minutes/day on social media sites, and only 5 minutes on popular news sites (Facebook, 2014). Therefore it is fair to say media sites appeal more to audiences and hold their attention longer.
Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and YouTube are all published in real-time, and by real people. It is simple to post content to these sites (i.e. images/video/text), and share it with your friends/the public. Social media provides several opportunities for ordinary people to become producers of news. These people are referred to as citizen journalists.
I have first hand experience as an accidental citizen journalist. I watched a significant event unveil in my town, and posted info regarding it on Facebook. Last summer, I was walking home from a friend’s, and noticed thick smoke arising from my neighbour’s house. It was late at night so I called 911 and made sure to get the members out. As help arrived, I posted pictures of the tragedy to my Facebook, hoping to gain support from others. All it took was some WIFI and a click of the ‘Upload’ button. I received several comments and ‘likes’ on the post – another benefit social media has over the newsroom. The fact that I was at the right place and the right time is what makes this accidental citizen journalism. It took an entire day for an article to be published about the fire in the Niagara This Week newspaper – so it was already considered ‘old news’ by the community.
Social media also allows for quick, two-way communication. It promotes openness, participation, conversation, and connectedness (Finch, 2009). Many people are active users of social media sites, and enjoy the freedom/simplicity it provides. Media corporations often refer viewers to official forums/webpages for feedback purposes. But experts have found that with story and blog comments, Twitter and Facebook, responsiveness comes much more naturally, and more quickly (Barnes, 2012). Readers have the ability to react and be heard in real time during news events, rather than participate in post-discussion. SNS’s provide individuals the freedom to state their opinions in real time, and attain information. One problem that comes to mind is that, since individuals’ resort to SNS’s so much for their info, how do they know what’s credible? The online world is filled with clutter, bias, and advertising nowadays. It has come to the point that it is up to the individual to determine what is considered valid information. Stories released on popular media sites such as CNN, NBC, CBC, etc. are recognized as factual and unbiased by audiences. This is why we must not only refer to SNS’s for our information, but also seek other sources/step back to traditional media. Posts on social media are often over-exaggerated and opinionated, making it hard for users to know the entire story.
Social media is one of the most popular sources people check for information. On top of that, it encourages the development of citizen journalism. It allows for easy 2-way communication, comments, and posts. Anyone can sign up for an account; therefore anyone can be a reporter, and share information with the public.
Now that I have realized the plethora of new opportunities social media offers citizen journalists, I definitely plan on utilizing it more and sharing posts with my FB friends. I suppose I go along with the trends and check my SNS’s more than say Yahoo News. But I am quite cautious with what information I absorb and pass on to others.
A neat example of how news spread so fast was this past week on Tuesday during the snowstorm. All the students at Brock, including myself, were anxious to here whether the school was going to close or not. I remember reading friends statuses on Twitter and Facebook stating, “No school for Brock students after 1pm!” That was a relief, but last snow day when they closed at 4, I still had my class until 5. Therefore I waited until Brock’s official website announced the closure. Initially I was excited reading all of my friends’ statuses, but I wasn’t sure if it was true because of the source. Weather stations all around Ontario sent warnings about the snowstorm hours before it hit. Because of this, we were all aware of the bad weather coming, so my roommates and I made sure to make an extra trip to the grocery store….just to be safe!
Anyways, that’s it for this blog entry. I’m going to go post about This Is My Niagara’s CONNECT Event! I hope that by posting the article my friend wrote (about the event of course) is effective in informing Brock students about the event, and make them want to attend! This is just one way I’m going to start with the whole citizen journalist thing. Check it out!
Barnes, M. (2012). Promoting a sense of community in social media. Social Media Marketing Journal. Retrieved from: http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/ promoting-sense-community-social-media/
Bruns, A. & T. Highfield. (2012). Blogs, Twitter, and breaking news: The produsage of citizen journalism. Retrieved from http://snurb.info/files/2012/Blogs,%20Twitter,%20and%20Breaking%20News.pdf
Facebook Official Website (2014): https://www.facebook.com/
Finch, D. (2009, June 19) 15 Things social media can do for you today. Social Media explorer. Retrieved from: http://www.socialmediaexplorer.com/social-media-marketing/15-things-social-media-can-do-for-you-today/