Twitter crippling the journalism industry

Every time we, or maybe it’s just me, think about journalism, now and what it will look like in the future, our attention immediately turns to social media sites. Yes once again I am particularly referring to Twitter.

One comment in particular from our guest lecturer Daniel Hurst, from the Brisbane Times, got me thinking. He said he didn’t like the new trend of tweeting during live press conferences, as many journalists are now being ordered to do by their superiors. This was based on the fact that after continuously tweeting little snip-its of the speech and bite-size packages of information the journalist then finds it hard to go and write the hard news article for that story. Their audiences have already got the information, they have already been updated and filled in on the information they need from Twitter, so where does that leave the news organisation as a business? They will find it harder, as Daniel pointed out, to be able to sell an advertisement place next to that hard news story and therefore the snowball effect starts.

Do we keep up with social media demands, a fast, constant cycle of news, or do we limit our involvement with such new forms of journalism so we can still make revenue from our online news sites.

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) future media director Ralph Riveria admits journalists and news organisations are still using Twitter simply as a platform to divert readers back to their traditional mediums of news. Martin Hurst adds to this in his 2011 book, News 2.0,  saying:

“Despite the problems encountered in trying to codify their reporters’ actions in the world of social media, mainstream media organisations are being pushed to embrace social networking or be left behind…The simple reason for this mainstream media interest is one of the economics – that’s where the eyeballs are going at the same time as the television viewership is declining”.

Hurst also discusses peer-to-peer sharing of content in his book and noted that “including information that might on the surface seem to be news-like-almost totally negates the need for professional journalists content”. How is it that we journalist can make a living if so many people are happy to do it for free?

Citizen journalists and real-world professional journalists are already doing all the work for Twitter, as if Twitter is its own media corporation and people are working as journalists for their company for free.

This theory was brought up by Matthew Ingram who described Twitter as a media business simply using other people’s content.

“It has become obvious by now that Twitter is building a digital-media business, powered by a rapidly-growing advertising platform. But trying to capture more of its users’ attention is going to bring it into conflict with the media companies who are providing all of its content.”

So is Twitter really a force for good? It seems we are moving forward so fast that someone is going to get hurt. Well, news organisations are already getting hurt and the flow on effect is hurting journalists, sub-editors, layout designers and photographers just to name a few. I mean we only have to look at what is happening here in Australia with the thousands of job cuts across Fairfax and the sale of Australian Consolidated Press (ACP) to a German company. The journalism industry isn’t healthy. So do we embrace the future technologies – keeping your friends close but your enemies closer?  It seems that this is the only option the ailing industry has been given.

Even researchers at Indiana University are examining how Twitter users display journalistic behaviors and how they shape the site as a news source. Read the full article here.

The article highlights that users who aren’t professional journalists are showing behavioural signs of a journalist simply by the content they are sharing and their interactivity on the site.

“On the most basic level, this highlights Twitter as a disruptive force in the changing media ecosystem. Even as a relatively small percentage of online adults use Twitter (about 13 percent, according to Pew), people are able to act journalistically without relying on traditional channels to do so.”

What are we going to do when there are no newspapers or magazines or radio? Will society regret what they have done to the industry?

As Nokia researcher Timo Koskinen highlighted in the ‘News Online: Transformations and Continuities’ the term ‘citizen journalism’ is constantly used:

“but technological innovations – particularly the introduction of mobile multimedia computers – have transformed the concept. ‘Citizen journalism’ is beginning to embrace a wide range of public engagement with media, from groups of contributors organised around a subject or geographic location to the casual participation of observers who are lucky – or unlucky – enough to be at the scene of a newsworthy event.”

For me, I know that I often feel like I want to throw my iPhone away and not look at a computer for at least one day! I don’t want to spend my weekends inside on my computer or even outside squinting at my phone screen to get the latest news. I cherish my weekend newspapers, which I can take to the beach, spread out, do the crossword, touch  and enjoy physically. And I think most Australian’s do too.

The likelihood of stopping a force as big as the Twitter revolution is slim. Martin Hurst in his book News 2.0 makes a good point:

“This change appears perhaps as a dichotomy – do we embrace the chaos and uncertainty of DIY news, or do we rally around professional journalism and defend the current institutions of the mainstream media? But unfortunately it’s not that simple.”

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