There is no doubt that in recent years, the way in which we consume the news is changing. The emergence of Facebook and Twitter as the dominating social media of today has opened up a world of possibilities when creating, connecting and sharing the news.
The speed at which these sites can be updated with breaking news in one of the main reasons they have become so useful is journalism, and they are a valuable source for directing users to full stories and other sites. Every news organisation that I follow, for example, will Tweet headlines as they break followed by a URL leading you to an in depth story.
Spanish nurse who became first person to contract Ebola outside Africa tests negative for the virus – family http://t.co/Cq3KVzVFTc
— BBC Breaking News (@BBCBreaking) October 19, 2014
We have even seen the introduction of live reporting due to social media journalism, whereby consumers are fed information as it happens; there really is no quicker way to hear the news, and since nearly all of us have smartphones, we can download the articles, videos and information straight into our pocket wherever we are.
Another key reason why social media is so powerful is that the visibility of news is huge. Twitter alone boasts 284 million active users, so it’s no surpise that social media is now rivalling, and in some cases, overtaking traditional forms of media as a main source of news.
Check out this infographic showing how people read the news:
Above all else, the interactivity and audience participation allowed by social media is the defining distinction from traditional forms of news.
It could be argued that with television programmes and radio broadcasts, we passively read the news, whilst the information is simplified to address a wide audience. Twitter and Facebook give users scope to share, like or comment on the news that is being reported. Not only does this present a new freedom to express opinion, but also allows journalists to engage with their audience. The once impenetrable barriers between the general public and news organisations are being eroded by social media.
Social media has the ability to create a global community; users from all over the world can connect with each other at the click of a button, and information can be passed on with absolute ease. The power of social media cannot be undererstimated, as the freedom of speech can have both advantages and disadvantages.
During the Egyptian Revolution in 2011, Facebook users in Egypt rose from 450,000 to 3 million, providing a space for communication and planning, and only today, a viral social media campaign to find Jasper the dog lead to his rescue. The dog, who was lost on a mountain, was rescued after more than 6000 people raised awareness about his disappearance through the Twitter hashtag #FindJasper.
However, social media and freedom of speech is not without its flaws – in 2011 the London Riots lead to Blackberry Messenger being shut down, as it became too easy to employ the app when organising crime and broadcasting messages to a large audience.
Social media is now a necessity when it comes to journalism. Journalists will use it to share and even source information, and the general public can engage, interact, and share news of their own.