It's getting crowded in hereJANINE BENNETTS
WEB AND SOCIAL MEDIA EDITOR
When we launched this blog earlier this week, one of our regular correspondents/critics asked us how often we relied on Twitter as a source for a story.
This is a great question because the answer can help illustrate how the media is changing and cut through all the noise being made about so-called "citizen journalism".
Do we use Twitter to gather news? Of course! Twitter is a series of conversations, thoughts, musings and links in the public domain. It can be a measure of the zeitgeist and an important source of information.
It is also, however, peppered with incoherent ramblings, red herrings and unsubstantiated claims. So, is Twitter, the only news gathering tool? Of course not. It's simply one source of information we use, and like any information it must be tested and corroborated.
We have to be constantly aware of how easy it is for people to take advantage of the anonymity that social media can provide.
A recent reminder was in December last year when a 4.2 earthquake was felt in the Wellington region. Tweets and online comments flowed through with reports.
One commenter said they had a few broken windows in their home. We opted not to include this in our story without confirmation, but other organisations did. This was then copied by other news outlets and ended up on most major news websites.
About 30 minutes later it turned out to be a kid playing a prank. Cue red-faces.
But there are obviously many benefits in accepting that knowledge and newsgathering are no longer our territory alone. As the media landscape becomes increasingly crowded, I believe the benefits of using social media like Twitter as a source of information far outweigh the pitfalls.
If news is breaking, we can't always get to the scene immediately so we crowdsource by asking our followers, fans, and website readers what they've seen and if they have photos or information.
We usually get responses that give us a clearer picture of what is happening and where, which means we can steer our reporters, photographers and videographers in the right direction. We can can get a story live on the website faster, with pictures and more reaction. This means we can begin work on the analysis faster - this helps us produce better stories for our print edition.
We also use social media as a tool to connect with contacts and find sources. Tools like Banjo allow us to see through social networks who is near an incident and contact them for info.
Our reporters can access public figures who choose to make their lives more public than ever through social media (we will miss you @stephenfry).
These new processes mean our stories are constantly evolving. Rather than one version coming out in print, we have multiple versions that update throughout the day. Often we lead with an initial tweet notifying our followers of something important happening, and then continue to update with developments as they happen. Later in the day this is all wrapped up with the latest developments and analysis for the morning newspaper.
It's an exciting time to be a journalist with so many channels to access and share news. We're still figuring out the best way to harness all this news information in a useful way and we are enjoying involving you in this process.
What do you think is the best use for social media in news? Do you share news and photos from events you're at? Do you think social media is a useful source for information?
And to follow us on Twitter, click here. It's worth it.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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