As I have studied how social media has affected journalism, there have been a few recurrent themes that have stood out that truly represent the impact it has on the field. Social media on its own is an easy and fun way to interact with people on the internet, and it usually revolves around a profile that the user can set up to best represent themselves. As these social media sites have improved and increased in popularity, “old media” jobs took advantage of these new mediums to further their own career.
One of the main attractions of these social media sites is immediacy and the ability to update a status or location with the click of a button. Journalists are able to take advantage of this immediacy when it comes to breaking news as they can instantly update their blog or twitter feed with live tidbits of information to keep their audience informed. In doing so, journalists develop a network of “followers” who can even act as sources because they are also just a single click away. Steve Buttry discusses how to use your network to your advantage by reaching out to the public in the area of a breaking news story such as a natural disaster or tragic occurrence. A simple tweet asking “what is going on” or “who knows what happened” in such situations can act as a major catalyst on popular sites like Twitter because people want to take part in the action and help at the same time.
Rather than working in a news room and awaiting clearance from an editor, the use of social media and blogs as a public portfolio eliminates the gatekeeper aspect of journalism. Journalists can act as their own gatekeeper and extend their limits and deadlines as they please. They can manage their sites according to their strengths and arrange their page to emphasize those strengths if they choose to. Vadim Lavrusik says “A professional Page is a way to grow your personal brand, and develop your audience and community.” Journalists still need to be professional on social media, but it also gives them a chance to express their charm, wit or creativity in a way that a newspaper column could never do. Social media gives a face to the faceless, and in a society where asking someone if they have Facebook is as normal as asking for their phone number, having a “face” is important.