The Death of Social Media: It's Not What You Think

September 6, 2010 § 1 Comment

The opening line of a post on Mashable by Vadim Lavrusik immediately caught my attention:

“The future of social media in journalism will see the death of ‘social media’.”

Personally, the idea of the near-total annihilation of  twitter would be akin to when the Wicked Witch of the West evaporates into thin air. It would be perfectly fine to me if social media were to no longer rule the Kingdom of the Web–leaving behind only a Facebook graveyard in its demise.

While I admit to being somewhat of an avid Facebook-er, the idea of tweets included alongside my morning broadcast is equivalent to adding a pound of sugar to Fruity Pebbles. It’s both way too sugary and way too early. (Though, I’ll admit to being a fan of former Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin’s tweets–it’s like my morning coffee: chock-full-of-gaffes.)

Of course if one were to continue reading the article you’d notice that Lavrusik is actually writing about the exact opposite: that is, the full integration of social media into journalism. Thus, the concept of “social media” would no longer apply as it would simply be a living, breathing, tweeting, thread of the fabric of news.

While a traditionalist-cynic like me finds the idea absolutely cringe-worthy, the guy has a point.

It's not pretty.

As traditional forms of journalism–print publications, broadcast, radio–struggle to stay afloat on their decrepid, sinking business models based on dried-up ad revenue streams, online journalism continues to sail forward.

While the industry buzz word last year might have been “social media,” this year’s buzz word might be “hyperlocal.” News 12 on Long Island embraces the term on broadcast graphics and websites like Patch.com, which utilize a Craigslist-esque approach to the news, are one of the few places that are readily hiring.

 

Twitter owns all.

 

Even the “big dogs” of the industry can’t resist the allure of the number of hits that locality fostered by social media brings. The New York Times, The Financial Times, and virtually every major broadcast network has a twitter. And even the industry sweethearts like ProPublica, which uses public funding to pay for its Pulitzer award-winning investigative pieces, are reaping the benefits of going beyond simply being on the Web.

Unlike my doom and gloom, Lavrusik appears more optimistic about the shift, saying that the integration of social media into journalism will actually integrate journalists into the communities in which they write and report on. Elements of Journalism, anyone?

One of the fundamental elements of journalism, according to Kovach and Rosensthiel, is loyalty to the public. In other words: Thou shall provide the public with all they need to know to make their own decisions. It may also refer to: Thou shalt not isolate yourself from the very public you’re suppose to work for.

Could social media be the bridge between journalists and the communities they serve? Or could it just end up being a bridge to nowhere?

Is Lavrusik right? Could social media actually be the bridge that gaps the distance between the lonely reporters perched on their islands and the constituencies that they purport to serve?

It very well could be, but for now, it’s a shaky one.

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