Is the plumbing in Russia more newsworthy than the competing Olympic athletes or the politics of Putin? If you were on Twitter prior to the start of the games you may have thought so.
When journalists started arriving in Sochi, tweets about the poor hotel conditions began to spread across the internet. A twitter account called @SochiProblems was created for those in Sochi to complain on the conditions. The twitter page on Sochi’s “problems” had almost 50,000 more followers than the game’s official twitter page itself on the day of the closing ceremonies.
Image from https://twitter.com/SochiProblems
What makes these tweets news?
Although toilets that cannot handle paper and stained tap water are common in much of the world, it is understandable that western journalists who have never seen living conditions like this may find these topics interesting enough to tweet about. It may even be fair to say that these conditions say something about Russia’s preparations for the games. However, in the days preceding the Olympics it seemed that American news outlets cared more that the hotels were not perfect than reports of the unpaid migrant labor used to build them.
Rosie DiManno of the Toronto Star has covered 13 Olympic Games. She recently wrote that she found the conditions to be somewhat typical for the Olympics. She believes that much of the bad press was blown out of proportion through social media, and that reporters need to be more careful not to use social media to make themselves the news.
A social media scope on the news
Social media cites enables journalists to bring many more topics to public attention. A journalist in Sochi can now write about endless topics on twitter without the restrictions of time or space that television and newspapers have. It is important to consider that although many of the stories presented through social media are interesting, they do not need to pass through an editor who is evaluating the fairness of the story.
– Sam Martinez