The impact of social media on Journalism’s ethics

For just a bit over a decade, social media changed the world and revolutionized how information is stored, published, searched and consumed. I feel that journalism’s ethics have been significantly impacted by the introduction of social media for numerous reasons. New media technology is not only having a serious effect because of its impact on established journalism. I believe that social media has positively impacted journalism though has brought up some ethical issues along the way. This is what I will be delving into in this reflection.

For a journalist in today’s media landscape, it is essential to be multi-skilled. The news industry is in a period of transformation where an old media system is disappearing and a new media system is budding. Social media has affected three parts of journalism:

Firstly, the nature of the journalist as traditional roles such as reporters and editors are being morphed together. A freelance journalist in Singapore who is a journalist for over a decade said,

“Journos have to embrace social media outlets because these are a rich source of potential stories.”

Secondly, the nature of the news gathering process. This involves getting tips or leads and the changing concept of what scoop or breaking news is, getting interviewees for a story and journalists as a “filter” for information coming their way.

Thirdly, the way information is disseminated, which involves social media network account is now an accepted extension of a person. Also, journalists are beginning to leverage on social media to receive, gather and distribute news. In todays society media companies are changing with the times and like it or not, the journalist of the future has to be more technology–savvy as news organizations become more digital-centric.

More recently, a growing number of readers, viewers and listeners are going online for their news. Journalism is constantly changing. Journalist’s ethics consist of truth; accuracy, independence, fairness and impartiality, humanity and accountability just to name a few. Since the start of semester I have signed up on Twitter and have been tweeting ABC programs such as Four Corners, Media Watch and Q and A and I have thoroughly enjoyed it. Tweeting has been insightful as in the 21st century journalists are forced to accelerate the traditional journalistic process because people now want real time information. When newsbreaks it’s all on social media – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and I find that interesting as print media is being overrun at the present time. However, when tweeting we, as journalists need to be aware that our tweets have to be accurate and impartial. Journalists in the past have got into some trouble as their tweets were seen as representing that of their workplace, hence, why as student journalists we have been told to make sure in our Twitter biography we make it clear that the tweets are our own personal views.

I also think that social media helps journalists as they can get their news across quickly and precisely. When tweeting every Monday night I learnt what a powerful tool Twitter and in general social media is for journalists as it is the future of news reporting. Listening to Q and A we got told that we could not give our own judgment so most of my tweets were quoting the panelists and saying what was on the show. I found this difficult as some of the audience questions were controversial and I had my own point of view though felt I couldn’t as I had to be impartial and fair. This will help me when I continue to tweet, as I’ll remember to be careful with what I put on any social media sites.

Also, as an avid sports fan I followed many sports journalists to see how they tweet their news. Neroli Meadows is a sports journalist who covers AFL and soccer, I found that Neroli was very engaging with her 38.8K followers and her tweets are short and to the point. You get all the information in 25 words or less. Same with American NBA sports journalist Nick Wright who I believe is one of the best up and coming sports journalists in America. Nick is very opinionated and passionate, which I like as I think you have to be passionate as a journalist if you want to be the best you can be. An example of the power of social media was on Wednesday 24th May 2017 in the NBA playoffs where the Cleveland Cavaliers were versing Boston Celtics. I wasn’t able to watch it though could follow it through Nick’s tweets as to what the score was and regular updates on the game. I look up to these two young and aspiring journalists hoping I can anywhere near their success.

For my hard news assessment I wrote a sport story on the uncertain future of Melbourne Rebels in the Super Rugby competition. Social media played a part in my assessment as I found my sources on Twitter and on the Internet. Most big sporting club has a media representative and on the Rebels Twitter feed they had a link to their website which had all their officials contact details. After speaking to both sources I found that I needed to stay up to date and social media was helpful with this. I got all my news after speaking to my sources I looked for sports journalists tweeting about the issue. This helped me get the latest news very quickly and easily from social media.

One clear example of where a journalist has got it wrong ethically was the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown by Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson has dominated many news headlines the second half of this year. And with it came ethical issues in reporting on the shooting.

Read the coverage here

A few months after the shooting, the New York Times published the name of Wilson’s street but defended the publication given that many outlets had previously named Wilson’s street.

The Times also erred in reporting on Wilson’s police history in August.

The next month, the Times corrected after reporting that the hacking group Anonymous held a protest because the Church of Scientology killed Brown.

As you can see in the above example, journalists need to be aware of the dangers of what we post on social media.

In my first semester of university as a journalism student i have learnt that social media is a powerful tool. Its impact has been substantial on journalism ethics though in my  opinion i believe that it has benefited the way journalists get their news across to the public.

And it is only going to keep evolving.

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