Media audiences are now receiving more of their news from social media sites like Facebook and relying on what is being shared by trusted Facebook friends.
Social media sites like Facebook have now become closer to media organizations and media audiences now enjoy greater levels of participation within the news industry. This is great if you want to be a citizen journalist however, can social media really be trusted to deliver reliable and credible news? News media organisations along with news media professionals need to respond to the associated challenges that social media has created within the news media industry. Consequently, the importance of maintaining ethical standards in the sourcing and delivery of news, has never been greater.
Posting interesting news stories to Facebook is now commonplace for millions of people worldwide and is a clear example of how news can now broadcast via social media. I posted a story on my Facebook page back in late May 2018, regarding the cancellation of Rosanne Barr’s show: Rosanne. Social media now allows everyone to become some form of journalist but, “it just depends on whether they are a professional journalist or not” (Fagan in Spurgeon 2018. Lecture 11). In the case of Rosanne Barr, one of her Twitter posts to 820, 000 of her followers enabled her to communicate racist comments, with the same effectiveness that was only previously possible through traditional news mediums. Social media enabled her to broadcast racism without the editorial restraint and ethical practice that is normally associated with trusted news sources.
“What is being said, why are they saying it, and where does this information come from?”: ABC producer Vanessa Wiltshire
Social media has democratized news production and the highly competitive nature of the news media industry demands news to be not only current but trending. The question of what is newsworthy however still remains a very important consideration. Mainstream media organizations are now sourcing increasing amounts of news from social media sites without thought or consideration for what is ‘newsworthy’. The following example: Front Page Vegemite Madness, serves as a great example of how social media audience reach is changing the way news is both sourced and selected for broadcast. A simple post on an instagram account about an overpriced hipster cafe serving vegemite on sourdough toast, attracted national and then international attention from a variety of traditional news outlets.
ABC producer Vanessa Wiltshire (Australian Story) suggests that good journalism concerns itself with looking at the message being delivered via any medium or source and asking questions such as: What is being said, why are they saying it, and where does this information come from? (Spurgeon, 2018. Lecture 11). News media organizations however are under increasing pressure to run stories that everyone else is running, regardless of the credibility of the story and the source. This particular story was about a Japanese study that found hair loss was treatable by using a chemical called polydimethylsiloxane in hair transplants. The same chemical is used by McDonald’s as an antifoaming agent when cooking chicken nuggets and French fries. So can eating McDonalds french fries help with hair loss? It must be true, it’s on the news!
In this age of news crossover and social media, how do we know what is true? Marketing organizations are now aiming to be that trusted friend and find ways to share their ‘branded news’ via social media. The importance for media professionals to find a balance between commercial concerns and ethical standards is increasingly more important for informed discussion.
Social media is a convenient way to access and broadcast media content. People such as Rosanne Barr however are broadcasting opinion and not fact. The quality of the messages being broadcast on social media need to be evaluated about what is newsworthy, branded news or just plain fiction. Social media innovation pushes traditional news media organizations to new limits in order to be the first to report something that may already appear on social media. The decision to publish is made often regardless of whether the story is newsworthy or not. The new media environment of citizen journalism, online discussion groups, social media tweets and major shifts in what constitutes truth reporting requires an ongoing examination of news standards and a return to news that is newsworthy.
ABC News (2018). Rosanne Cancelled. Network 10 and ABC condemn racist tweet. Retrieved from http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-05-30/american-network-abc-cancels-roseanne-after-racist-tweet/9814474
Media Watch (2018, February 12).Would You Like Facts With That [Video File]. Retrieved from http://www.abc.net.au/mediawatch/transcripts/s4802471.htm
Media Watch (2018, April 23). Front Page Vegemite Madness [Video File]. Retrieved from http://www.abc.net.au/mediawatch/transcripts/s4834085.htm
Spurgeon, C. (2018). KJB102 Introduction to Journalism, Media and Communications: Lecture 3 Live Guest Panel: What Do Employers Want? [lecture recording] Retrieved from https://lecturecapture.qut.edu.au/ess/echo/presentation/2115a640-0746-4106-bc04-080e21b9573c?ec=true
Spurgeon, C. (2018). KJB102 Introduction to Journalism, Media and Communications: Lecture 11 Live Guest Panel: Facebook And Fake News [lecture recording] Retrieved from https://lecturecapture.qut.edu.au/ess/echo/presentation/7addc165-5612-4b28-897d-d1baad1f1788?ec=true