Week 10: The rise of social media and its impact on mainstream journalism

A study on how newspapers and broadcasters in the UK and US are responding to a wave of participatory social media, and a historic shift in control towards individual consumers.


  • Extensive linking to commentary in the mainstream media particularly to reports about the role of social media.
  • Role of technology: how to get around the internet censorship by setting up proxy servers and how to protect the identity of protesters from the authorities.
  • Authorities had difficulties with shutting down the flows of information.
  • Twitter:

Multi-headed hydra: does not operate through one set of internet address, hundred of different applications and interfaces.

  • Most people still continue to get news through traditional TV and radio.
  • Media confined to citizen journalism and social networks.
  • “One in every twenty mainstream stories about Iran dominated by social media footage or news lines about social media.
  • User generated content into mainstream media:

(assessing how to integrate user-generated content into their coverage)

Huge amount of noise and false information generated by these networks, some of which were deliberately placed to influence the debate.

Little balance on Twitter and other social networks: conversation was overwhelmingly in favour of the opposition’s candidate.

-> attract the supporters of younger, more computer-illiterate Iranians, as well as activist in the West.

“All the blogging, the twittering, the Facebook activity…is from a self-selecting demographic- media switched on, westernised, reformist/ We are getting the social media and user generated sites aiding and abetting the mainstream western media view of this as a massive liberal explosion in Iran.”

New York Times, Guardian, CNN and the Huffington Post made the information emerging from social networks a central part of their coverage, allocating specific resources to provide a filtered take of the activity on Twitter, FB and blogs.

— technique is known as ‘live blogging’ or ‘live text commentary’

TV: involves allocating a social media correspondent to monitor and report directly on activity.

Positives of going online:

  • live blog reporters engaging directly with networks
  • single copy-tasting function for social web activity, saving time, reducing scope for mistakes
  • accumulation of credit within communities like Twitter, including a significant number of links back to their websites or broadcasts.

Journalist using crowdsourcing techniques and credit within networks like Twitter allow them to find out more information and background.

Twitter used to share information around the world, to link to and highlight mainstream media reports and user-generated content.

Twitter becomes the real-time glue for highlighting and filtering all of the activity on other websites and social networks.

“Twitter is a great real-time tool for distributing opinion, ut its no replacement for curated media coverage of the crisis” Andrew Keen, author of Cult of the Amateur

Future: news organisations are going to need to get used to the fact they will always be running behind the social networks. Social media evangelists will need to recognise that there will always be a deficit of trust, context and perspective within these networks.

Consumers will decide how they wish to balance these factors and where they wish to place their trust and their eyeballs.


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