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Could Facebook and Twitter Become a Thing of the Past?


Social Media Week 2012 SP

Social Media Week 2012 SP (Photo credit: Fora do Eixo)

In a blog post for 10,000 WORDS, sponsored by Media Bistro, Ben LaMothe writes about his experience lecturing to students at Central Michigan University.  He discusses the relationship of social media to mass communications and journalism.

After his lecture, LaMothe had a Q & A session and found something surprised him.  The students had voiced concerns that social media, specifically Facebook and Twitter, were just trends and eventually could fall to the wayside and become something of the past.  They raised questions about whether education institutions should  offer a degree or certificate program in social media.  According to LaMothe, the students also had concerns that while conducting a job search they feared Facebook accounts could hurt their employment chances.

LaMothe writes, “Students are curious about how social media can impact their job search, but are also afraid of how it could be used against them in the search. Some students viewed the idea of maintaining a “clean” profile as unacceptable, and wondered if it was better to have no Facebook presence at all.  I explained that if they view it as one or the other, then it would probably be better not to have a presence at all. It doesn’t give a recruiter something to use against you in the job seeking process. But when you’re applying for a job in media, it could work against you not having a presence.”

On this point, I would have to disagree slightly with LaMothe.  I think a Facebook presence can in fact hurt employment chances.  We have seen recently articles surfacing about employers requesting the passwords of the social media accounts of new hires.  I know of fellow classmates who have applied for internships, find that they’re recruiter decided not to follow their “clean” or professional profile on Twitter, rather their personal one.  Users say and show a lot about themselves on social media, and I think employers are aware of this, and choose to get a “real” feel for the person they have hired or may hire.  I do agree that if you view it as having one or the other, you probably shouldn’t have an account at all.  I’m not sure why anyone looking for employment these days, with the knowledge of how far-reaching the internet is, would post things on social media websites that they wouldn’t disclose in an interview.

I also agree with LaMothe, it could hurt your employment potential if you are looking for work in media.  Considering the direction social media seems to have taken with regards to communication and journalism, not having a presence these days is just plain silly.

I know a lot of people who can’t stand the idea of social media and they don’t understand why people embrace it.  For me personally, I have to embrace it.  I need to be as absolutely connected as possible.  Social media is a great tool for journalists, writers and just about anyone else who want to get published or be involved in the media and news industry.  It’s a must.

LaMothe says in his article that sure, Facebook and Twitter could disappear, but he also says, “…But the ideas and the impact that the two sites have had on communications, customer service, and more, will just inhabit another site.”

Again, I would have to agree with LaMothe.  The technology and methods of these two sites have made a deep and everlasting mark on communications, and the news industry.  I don’t know of many high-profile reporters, commentators, news networks and shows that do not have a Twitter feed or a Facebook page, or some form of social media connected to them.  This kind of communication, and connectivity is here to stay, whatever package it comes in.

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Social Media Replacing Journalism?


Data from April 2011 Editor Survey that lists ...

Data from April 2011 Editor Survey that lists Social Media activities (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There is a fantastic post on Media Bistro’s blog, 10,000 WORDS by Meranda Watling.  “Infographic:  How Social Media Wins At Breaking News” speaks volumes of how news consumers get their breaking news and how much that has changed over the last decade.

Watling opens up by asking her readers to try and recall how they learned of the attack on Sept. 11.  She sums up by acknowledging that most people found out through television, contacted their relatives by phone, if possible, and then likely read the newspapers the next day and followed up with a weekly news magazine.  She points out, we didn’t hear of it through social media, like Facebook or Twitter because they weren’t invented at the time.

Watling continues to discuss how major news stories spread through social media, using the killing of Osama Bin Laden and other stories as examples.  Her article discusses the very real change that is taking place in the news industry with respect to the advancement of social media becoming one of the major sources of news for people.

Watling concludes her article with a graphic done by Schools.com, that referenced a Pew Research Center study titled, “What Facebook and Twitter Mean For News.

I don’t think it comes as major surprise to those who already use social networking on regular basis.  The implications however, of social networks becoming a serious player in the news industry is something to consider carefully.  Especially, in an age of citizen journalism, when blogging and other forms of news dissemination is exploding on the frontlines of journalism.

Before you get too excited and think you can now depend on getting all of your information from sites like Facebook and Twitter, note in the graph where it states that 49.1% of people have at some point heard breaking news on social media that turned out to be false.

Ah, the new-age, old problem of citizen journalism.  Verification.  It’s wise to not believe everything you see or hear on these sites, but with a little digging, you can pretty quickly decipher the validity of the breaking news.  Watling touches on the issue of trust and verification of reporting in her blog post, but leaves it for another day.

On the School.com website that displays this graphic, I don’t know that I would go so far as to agree with the notion that social media is replacing journalism.  I don’t think that’s the case.  I do think, the news industry is figuring out how to capitalize on social media sites, and while anyone can become a news producer these days, not everyone follows the guidelines and “rules” of traditional journalism.  So, social media is not quite there yet.  Could it be ten or twenty years from now?  I think that is a very real possibility.

The graphic below is the one produced by Schools.com.
Social Media: The New News Source
Courtesy of: Schools.com

Rate My Amendment, How CISPA Attacks the Constitution


Jason Koebler wrote an article Thursday for US News.com that discusses the dangers of the new Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act. Yes, bear with me as we explore yet another acronym from the government, CISPA.

In his article, Koebler says, “…Experts say the danger level associated with CISPA depends on the answer to one question: Which Constitution amendment do you care about more, the First or the Fourth?”.

The idea behind CISPA according to the article and the congressmen who sponsored the bill is, that this will allow corporations and companies to share user information with the government without penalty or threat from general citizens or in other words, without getting sued by their users. Now, the government says this information is completely voluntary and, the companies are not required to share data. They are encouraged to share data only if it pertains to cyber-security and national security with the hope of stopping attacks from outside sources trying to steal information and other similar threats. The makers of the bill say it’s a two-way street.

In his article Koebler quotes Jim Dempsey, vice president for public policy at the Center for Democracy and Technology, “ The government can say ‘you want our secret sauce, give us all your data, if you play ball with us, we’ll play ball with you.’”

Dempsey also goes on to say in the article that once the bill, “CISPA removes the legal barriers, it becomes harder for companies to resist those inducements, which can lead them to do things they’re uncomfortable with.”

From what I can gather from the article by Koebler, and the statements from the congressmen and Dempsey, this bill is opening a two-way street of “non-required” sharing of private users information and in doing so, skirts the Fourth Amendment. This leaves every private citizen who uses the internet vulnerable to the governments smooth talking proposals to the companies and corporations like Facebook, Verizon, AT&T, Microsoft and others.

Well. Now if that doesn’t box your ears and leave them ringing, I don’t know what will. I’m sorry, could you repeat the question? Which Amendment do I care about more? Why should that be entertained? 

Recently our government, via the FBI, put out a Request For Information regarding software that could be used to find “danger” words in social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter as well as on search engines.  Is this the beginning of the end of free speech on the Internet?  Is this a violation of a reasonable expectation of privacy?

I’ve had a few conversations on this subject.  One friend pointed out that just as driving is not a right it is a privilege, so is the Internet.  We don’t have a right to use it, we choose to use it.  In doing so, we are subject to terms of use, just as we are subject to traffic laws.  While this makes sense to me, I can’t help but think about a few counter arguments.

If you are pulled over by the police while driving, can they just search your vehicle because they feel like it?  I don’t think they can.  Can the police show up on your doorstep and search your house, your phone, your laptop or your refrigerator?  Nope.  Please correct me if I am wrong on any of this, but it was my understanding that without evident probable cause or a warrant, the government in any form is not allowed to search and seize a private citizen or their property.  I would think that this would include intellectual property, no?  I know that might be a stretch, but if we can  sue others in court over the ownership of intellectual property, then does it not become just as tangible as your car?

What do you think about this? Do you think the government is over-reaching?  Is this legislation something we should support in the name of national security?  Is it in violation of the Constitution?

The Fourth Amendment states the following:  

AMENDMENT IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Social Networks Bring Tragic Story to National Media


By now, most of you have heard of the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin.  The New York Times published an article by Brian Stelter on March 25, that discusses some of the story, but also why the story took weeks to gain national attention.  According to his article, Stelter maps out the progression of the growth of attention from the date the tragedy occurred, Feb. 26, to the time it finally achieved a national audience around March 16 and thereafter.

Stelter states, “It was not until mid-March, after word spread on Facebook and Twitter, that the shooting of Trayvon by George Zimmerman, 26, was widely reported by the national news media, highlighting the complex ways that news does and does not travel in the Internet age.”

The article suggests that race may have played a role in how slowly the story spread, but also that social media, as quoted above, played an intricate role.  Stelter interviewed colleagues who recalled having followers on Twitter ask them what they were going to say about this story.  While it was picked up locally and state-wide within a week, it wasn’t until users of social media got a hold of it and spread the word, did the story gain the momentum needed to hit the national arena.

Folks, we live in an age where information is literally at our fingertips, available twenty-four-seven.  And yet, even during these times, stories like this, somehow fall through the media cracks.

It’s interesting that the power of social media and the internet is proving itself repeatedly, and in so many ways.  Wikileaks, the Arab Spring and now, the tragic end of a teenager’s life, which otherwise may have gone untold.

As journalists we are right to be mindful and skeptical of social media “news” and user-generated content.  It’s proper that we don’t take this information at face value without verification.  But there is one more aspect of this new media that we should never ignore:  that it is powered largely by the people.  The same people we want to inform.  The same people we have chosen to become sentinels for.  The same people who make up the democracy we try desperately to protect through our freedoms of speech.

In a sense, national media failed in these past few weeks, and it took action by average citizens to open the eyes of the watchdog.