Social media brings new responsibilities for journalists

The boom in social media has changed journalism and has also created new roles for journalists.

“We still report facts and give you the news, but the rise of social media has changed how a story is told and consumed,” said Robert Quigley, social media editor of Austin, Texas’ The Statesman in a column.

Journalists are no longer the gatekeepers of information for readers or viewers. Social media has taken on that role and is running with it. At the Knight Science journalism symposium in Boston, Tom Rosenstiel said that journalists can now assume new roles as authenticators, sense-makers, navigators and forum-leaders, said Alfred Hermida of Reportr.net.

Journalists must assume a new role with the boom of social media. © April 12, 2011, Vadim Lavrusik

The authenticator can help the reader or viewer figure out whom or what they can trust. This could mean reporting the facts as journalists have always done. This could also mean that the journalist directs the audience to credible and up to date sources for news.

Journalists also have to help the public make sense of the news by being sense-makers and navigators. Journalists and reporters are no longer the public’s only source of information. Social media has given the public a greater amount of “news” to sift through and journalists can now be the ones to help in this endeavor.

Forums are becoming more popular with readers, so journalists have yet another job to fulfill. “News outlets now have opportunities to distinguish themselves by producing fact-based discussions of public issues and presenting a diversity of opinions,” said Mike Saunders, the CEO of DigitLab- The Social Media Agency, in his article.

Readers have an increasingly vast amount of news to sort through, making it much more difficult for readers to obtain factual information about current events. Articles are being ‘shared’ on Google+ and Facebook and trending on Twitter, and according to Saunders, “the problem is that these articles may be popular but they are not necessarily providing verified facts about the news subject.”

Social media has given journalists a new way to serve the public. Journalists are now charged with the job of bridging the gap between the popular and the factual.

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