Social Media and Journalism

Each minute, some 300 hours of video is being uploaded to YouTube; And YouTube has more than 1 billion users.

Each minute there are 3,125,000 ‘likes’ on Facebook posts; And Facebook has more than 1.39 billion monthly active users.

Each minute 350,000 tweets are posted on twitter; And Twitter has over 302 million monthly active users.

That’s not all. Each minute, WhatsApp users share 347,222 photos. They beat users on Instagram, where 216,000 new photos are shared per minute.

I have taken the above data from YouTube’s own statistics page, Twitter’s company facts page, Social Bakers, Social Times, Ad Week, Internet Live Stats and some other reliable websites.

We cannot deny that, today, ‘online social media’ has become extremely powerful. Its reach is simply staggering. And its content is undeniably influential.

Not only personal information but even real ‘News’ gets passed on to others through social media. Users post links to news web-pages and news video-posts, and others then ‘retweet’ or ‘share’ to others making some posts ‘go viral’.

From newspapers to radio to television to Internet, the upheaval that the field of mass communication has been facing is simply too enormous and too volatile to be explained in simple words.

People read and share news they consider important by gleaning them from their friends’ posts and shares. And, therefore, sometimes, the validity of the information becomes suspect.

This is where ‘responsible journalism’ comes in. We all know that when users of social media want to verify facts, they will quickly go to Google to check the relevant news on “news websites”.

So, I believe that the newspaper websites, and new age journalists have the great and challenging role of debunking rumours, and of ensuring the publishing of truth.

Trained reporters must dig deep for reliable sources, verify the facts, and then examine the importance of the news, and the possible repercussions the news would have (especially in sensitive regions of a country, based on topics of interest) before publishing them.

As many young journalists today have their own twitter accounts, and have thousands of followers their responsibility is much more!

Everything they say is considered truth by their online followers; and therefore they must be ‘doubly cautious’ before posting news that is unconfirmed.

Even if newspapers and journalists are competing for online presence, what is paramount is this: Long-standing truth should never be sacrificed for short term sensationalism.

This is also the age of “Citizen Journalism”. The number of people who act like journalists on Social Media is on the rise. With no training in languages, reporting skills, and source-verifications they often fall prey to misinformation.

I have nothing against citizen journalists. In fact, I would heartily recommend them, provided they at least do some self-learning to equip themselves with the requisite skills, and aim to go for ‘truth’.

I wish to end this piece quoting from an article called “Journalism and Social Media: It’s a Love-Hate Affair” by Cordelia Hebblethwaite, a John S. Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford University.

She says: “Much as it infuriates Facebook and other social media platforms, most journalists I’ve spoken to still see Twitter as their biggest news source when it comes to social”.

Today, social media is to journalists what the telephone was, in the past, to its new users: A nuisance among conveniences and a convenience among nuisances.