Tag Archives: social media

Social media: it’s how we engage

According to Poynter Institute one-third of people under 40 used the Internet to follow the presidential debate.

This comes on the back of the Olympic games, which were deemed the first ‘social media’ Olympics.

The Poynter article notes that a Pew Research Centre poll released on Thursday found many Americans used digital devices simultaneously to engage with the event.

Source: Poynter Institute.

According to Poynter “the poll focused on which media Americans used during the first presidential debate. It finds 32 percent of people under 40 used digital devices while watching the debate and the same number followed public reaction live online”. It also noted “a majority (51 per cent) of people under 40 got at least some coverage online or through social media”.

Poynter says this phenomenon creates a huge demand for news organisations to provide live second-screen coverage. The Washington Post told Poynter its Politics app for the iPad saw a 44 percent jump in visits the night of the first debate, and a 600 per cent increase in usage of its Forum section that tracks political players on Twitter.

“A separate Pew Internet and American Life poll found that 27 per cent of voters with cell phones are using them to follow the election, and 35 percent have used their phone for fact-checking,” says Poynter.

This means journalists and news organisations need to be ahead of the game (or the ‘citizen journalist). They need to be live-blogging, tweeting, updating news stories on their websites continuously. This is where professional journalists’ comments can weigh heavier than ‘user-generated’ content, because the professional journalist should be across this topic, they should have a lot more knowledge on the topic, they can provide expert analysis and can source information from industry professionals. Citizen journalism is more opinion based so you are not receiving reputable, reliable and credible information.

Audiences are turning to online sites on their mobile devices to be able to watch the event, similar to an Australian watching a football match, but look to their news organisations as a reputable source for further in-depth analysis about the event. They are expecting the news media to set the agenda and to lead the conversation. This is just one of the reasons journalism is still a vital pillar within our society. Because as the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance Code of Ethics notes:

“Journalists help society to describe itself, they animate democracy and they convey information, ideas, options, a privileged role.”

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Social media society: are we addicted?

In one of my other subects at QUT this week we had to respond to stimlus for an exam. The article I chose to respond to was one by The Age called Status Update: we don’t like Facebook. The creation of the Web 2.0 culture has meant that we’re programmed to live and breathe with technology, especially social media, but a focus group study on the article actually says respondents are sick of our naracism on social media.

You only have to type the word Facebook and the words addiction or disorder into a Google search to bring up an in-depth list of articles and information on our culture and our obsession with Facebook. One study in Germany even goes as far to say that we’re more allured to checking our social media updates than we are to sex. The Age also wrote another article focused on studies and statistics about social media usage.

Quick stats:

11.26 million Australians visited Facebook in August this year.

In April the average time an Australian spent on Facebook was eight hours, 29 minutes and 43 seconds.

About 2.3 million Australians used Twitter in August

About 1 million checked out Pinterest.

So in my exam I did some of my own research and conducted my own interviews to get a broader view on whether or not we’re obsessed with social media and if so, why? I also explored the idea that we’re very narcissistic online. Here’s what I had to say:

“What is it about social media that has made us so obsessed? University of Queensland lecturer in strategic communication Dr Sean Rintel believes it is because people can keep connected with friends no matter what, day or night, and technology is simply amplifying trends and communication that already existed before social media. “Some people just want to keep on getting that little high from every time they see a like or a comment,” he says.

We are now a society plagued with technological dependency that we can hardly exist without a phone, tablet or computer within 100 meters of us. To top it all off Facebook has just hit one billion active users.

Dr Rintel argues that society’s self-absorbance on Facebook is like a cycle and we are just hamsters on a wheel with a piece of cheese dangled in front of us. “If people are getting positive feedback from things like ‘I just ate a sandwich’ or whatever, it’s not surprising that they continue to do more things like that because they know they get positive reinforcements,” he says. “Who doesn’t love positive reinforcement and because Facebook only has a “like” button not a “dislike” button, so people can only receive positive encouragement.” Dr Rintel argues technology cannot make us do anything. It cannot make us become narcissistic because there is no casual relationship to support that but it has given us a tool to exaggerate such attributes.

Anna Davison a teacher at Gympie State High School looks out from her desk at the front of the classroom to a sea of about 20 students, many of them looking down at their crutch. “I know what they’re doing when they have their eyes down there,” she says. Like a fungus has slowly eaten away at their brains, students now sit zombified in classrooms across the world. When Ms Davison asks for a reason behind such a lack of class involvement, a common reply is “miss I am just really tired, I don’t really want to do what we are doing because I was on Facebook until 2 am this morning,” she explains.

But when it comes to narcissism in the young people she teaches Ms Davison admits she doesn’t think it has increased because of social media. “I remember 10 years ago when my daughter and her friends were growing up, they would get out our old digital camera and take pictures of themselves around the house or out and about,” she says.

“It’s not so much about being obsessed with what they look like, I find we’re more addicted about letting everyone know where we are and what we’re doing,” she says when reflecting on Facebook. “I find it interesting when people post pictures of something fun and different but I really don’t want to know what my friends and daughter are eating for breakfast, I think that is so boring and mind numbing.”

Although we are somewhat addicted to Facebook and social networking, a report by Ipsos Mackay obtained by The Age newspaper illustrates a trend in people turning away from the site. The article stated that the newest trend was people being critical about the narcissistic culture and self-absorption on Facebook.

Once upon a time in a pre-Web 2.0 world if someone was talking to us about themselves or self-indulgent topics we could just walk away. We could take immediate action and no-longer be subjected to such behaviour. But now even if we wanted to walk away we can’t, we have become a technologically programmed society and our interactivity and sense of connectedness no longer just stems through the people we see face-to-face but the virtual relationships we share.

In a New York Times article Larry D. Rosen, a California psychologist who studies the impact of technology use on society says our relationship with Facebook is not so much about addiction but rather connected to anxiety. “Addictions are about finding pleasure,” he says. “Compulsions are born from anxiety, and Facebook is psychologically important. It allows us to project on the world, in a way that we’ve never been able to before, who we are and what we want to say about ourselves.”

He adds, “We are always checking to see if anyone posted on our wall, if they liked a photo, responded to an update. For those who use it, they are feeling more of a need to look at it and check in and reduce the anxiety of feeling like they are missing out on something.”

As Martin Hurst highlights in his 2011 book New 2.0, “social networking is the face – or perhaps the screen – on which convergence culture plays to a global audience that is both consumer and ‘producer’. Hurst also agrees with Dr Sean Rintel in saying that a YouTube study conducted by Hewlett-Packard social media laboratories found that the more attention a person’s content receives, the more likely they are to upload more content.

Traditionally when you mention that you’re studying journalism or are a journalist people would never automatically connect the profession with the internet or social media. For me, especially thanks to the subject Online Journalism, I now associate journalism the internet, social media, Twitter and smart phones. So for me studying journalism, I guess I am destined to become a social media addict – that’s if I want to succeed in my job now and into the future. But maybe hold off on the narcassim.

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News: how to use social media updates

Today whilst looking through my Facebook page I noticed two news organisations had posted a status update about finding the crashed plane that went missing on the Sunshine Coast on Monday.The posts both said the plane had been found but their information was different. View map of the area where the plan crashed. (Brisbane Times reported it was 4km northwest of Borumba Dam). 


(Click picture to see bigger size)

These comments were posted at the same time. Just like Susan Herthington’s example on the QUT Online Journalism blackboard site, people just want the raw facts. Susan says

“When composing tweets remember the aim is to entice your audience and inform them not annoy them. Tell them what’s happened, not just that something had happened. Not that the government has released a report. What did the report say? Not that a basketball match has been played. Who won?”

The radio station HOT 91 told us the people who were onboard the plane had died. Channel 9 News failed to tell us whether they were alive or not, which is the main question people want answered. Instead Channel 9 added a link to another story wanting to coerce viewers to open up their other stories.

If news organisations are going to utilise social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter they need to give the audience the details they want or they’ll go elsewhere to source the information. It is ineffective to say they found the plane’s crash site without adding more information.

Journalists need to realise this when they’re covering live events. People don’t want to know that the Premier is speaking outside Parliament today, they want to know what he is saying. People want dot point facts that tell us not just what but how, why, when and where.

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Trial by social media

You would’ve had to have been living under a rock not to have heard about the case of Jill Meagher in the past two weeks.


RIP Jill Meagher. Source: Mamamia.com.au

Jill Meagher, a 29-year-old ABC employee from Brunswick, Melbourne, was out drinking with work colleagues on a Friday night and into early Saturday morning.  On her way home CCTV footage shows that she was approached by a man in a blue hoodie. She failed to arrive home and a police homicide investigation was later set up.

A Facebook page was set up to help find the missing woman and accumulated more than 120, 000 likes. Ms Meagher’s body was found early Friday morning and a 41-year-old man has been arrested.

Facebook page set up to find Jill Meagher. Source: Facebook.

Related coverage on Facebook involvement in case: ABCSky NewsThe Australian.

Related articles on Jill Meagher: Herald Sun, Sydney Morning Herald

Police are now concerned that comments posted on the Facebook page could jeopardise the trial.

A name and shame Facebook page was also set up.

It’s not the first time this issue has arisen. In America jurors have been thrown out of courts for accessing information on social media sites and news sites through phones, tablets and computers.

We saw a very similar case, involving the issue of social media usage during a trial last year with the Daniel Morcombe case.

According to a Perth Now article:

“New media, including Twitter, Facebook and blogs, which broadcast to the entire world, means individuals now have a power once only held by major media organisations.”

“Because the man has been charged, any comments relating to his circumstances published prior to the conclusion of the case could lead the court to deem it impossible for him to receive a fair trial.

“The worst case scenario, according to legal expert at the Queensland University of Technology Peter Black, is that the judge grants a permanent stay of indictment because pre-trial publicity about the man was too prejudicial.”

In many cases the intent of the Facebook page is originally created to do good but many people don’t realise whilst they are venting their outrage or anger over particular actions they are also doing the case a lot of harm.

The Victorian Police asked Facebook to take down the page due to the fact that it could very well jeopardise the case involving Ms Meagher’s alleged killer, but Facebook refused.

Listen to the 3AW radio interview with the Victorian Chief Commissioner about social media usage during the trial.

In an article by the Age Kristen Boschma, the head of social media at communications firm Haystac said the level of social media engagement with the Meagher case was “unprecedented other than natural disasters in Australia”.

Although concerns are now growing over the harm social media could be doing to this trial it did play a huge part in the case.

The CCTV footage of Ms Meagher was viewed more than a million times on social media and assisted in people coming forward with further information that helped the police.

One of the reason’s it played such a major role in this case is because people like to feel a sense of connection and community, and want to feel connected to others who feel the same as them.

“Where things start to become incredible, I guess, is that Jill’s name had appeared in more than 35 million Twitter feeds in the early stages of this case and a lot of the sharing came from Australia and Ireland,” University of Canberra journalism academic Julie Posetti said.

As journalists we are taught to be very selective with what we write, whether it’s on traditional formats or online formats, to ensure we don’t publish material  that is defamatory, in contempt of court or sub judice.

Now that everyone on the internet could almost be called a journalist the same rules should apply and do apply. If members of the public want to embrace the role of a journalist when sharing breaking news or contributing in such cases as Jill Meagher’s, then they should be prepared to also take on the responsibilities that come with the territory. If they want to practice journalism they should follow the code:

MEAA Code of Ethics for journalists. Click photo for the full code.

Ms Posetti said education programs needed to be rolled out to assist with this issue.

While ‘professionally qualified journalists’ know (or should know, or know and don’t abide by the laws as we see with some shock jocks) it is the ‘citizen journalists’ who need to realise how greatly their actions can impact.

Maybe a new Twitter trend should be started now to remind or warn people not to talk about the case in a way that could cause a mis-trial.

Find here tips on what you can and can’t publish during a trial.

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Fast writing for fast news

After completing my first week of QUT’s Radio and TV Journalism 1 (@qutnews) praxis I found where my major fault lies as an aspiring journalist. It is a lack of speed. However, it seems that with the advent of online journalism the need for speed has become a guiding principle within the industry.

Last week from 8am to 1pm a group of QUT students put together a radio bulletin, which involved sourcing our own stories and talent, interviewing our talent and putting together a pre-recorded radio package to be broadcast on Brisbane’s 4EB as a 1pm news bulletin. To say the least, the newsroom was manic: phones ringing, people interviewing, trying furiously to get onto someone who could give you a comment, and meanwhile in the background the loud thumping of keyboards, as we stressfully tried to type up our stories to make the deadline.

Although this real-world scenario opened my eyes (well, more like reality slammed into me like I’d been hit by a bus) to my lack of speed when putting together a news story, so did the assessment exercises in my other subject, Online Journalism. Our tasks have involved transcribing a radio script into an online news story, updating a running story and live blogging, all of which required a serious overhaul of fast typing and quick thinking, which I struggled with. But this is how journalism works – in a very fast, changing and volatile way, especially thanks to social media, which I have previously referred to in my other blogs.

With an overall perspective, David Craig in his book ‘Excellence in online journalism’ says:

“Breaking news is one of the key ethical battlegrounds in online journalism because it highlights the tensions between the best traditions of journalism and the competitive realities of the new media world.”

Whether it’s making a radio deadline, scripting for an impromptu live television cross or a running/breaking news story through an online news site or twitter feed there is an enormous amount of pressure placed on getting your story up quickly.

The Poynter Institute lists under their ‘how to’s’ section a range of chats that provide tips for improving journalists’ writing speed.

Roy Peter Clark shared some helpful hints in this Poynter post. 

He says the most common problems he sees with people trying to write fast is:

1. Dumping stuff online.

2. Insufficient fact checking.

3. Doing so much research that you get lost.

4. Waiting too long to write.

5. Giving yourself too little time for revision.

Roy Peter Clark says:

 If I have, say 30 minutes to write a story, I will still spend five, maybe ten minutes, thinking of the parts and scratching out a plan. I usually just jot down the five things I want to put in the story, and then number them to give me a simple beginning, middle and end. I can write much faster, and much better, from a mini-plan.

He also suggests starting to write early on. Sometimes you can pre-empt some of the things your talent might talk to you about in your interview and start scripting early on. This is one thing I failed to do in my radio praxis. Waiting to get my interviews (usually between three and four a day) and then listening back to them, cutting up grabs and then lastly writing my story. When in fact it would have saved me a lot of time if I started writing in between my interviews.

Roy Peter Clark spoke about one former journalist in particular, named Ray Holliman. He was a sports reporter in the 1970s and was notoriously fast in his writing and reporting. Roy puts this down to his ability to report, write, report, write. Whilst at the same time the first thing he thought about was what is important? and what does my audience need to know?

Poynter chat with Roy Peter Clark. Click picture to view the full chat on the Poynter website.

About.com Guide also wrote an article on tips for writing faster. In summery the article advises:

– Don’t agonise over your copy

– Just get the words down and then revise at the end

– Just get the lead right and focus on the point of the story

– Practice makes perfect (the more you practice writing stories fast the better you will get)

Well it may be easier said than done. But I believe practice makes perfect. And both my radio praxis bulletin and my Online Journalism assessment has highlighted this for me.

My advice is to practice by using Twitter to live update what’s happening in your day at least three times a day. So tweeting in the morning, lunch time and evening or when something you think is significant or newsworthy happens that should be reported on.

In addition to this, using the iPhone app, Evernote (which I spoke about in my previous blog) to write stories about things that happen within your day. This allows you to share your story on social networking sites, email it, store it on your phone as well as add photos and a video.

Although university life can be very busy and it feels like we don’t have a spare second to even file a story in our spare time, we have to try to make time to practice this craft otherwise we will not improve.

We need to get faster to keep up with the on-demand news industry that will only continue to pick up pace in the future.

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