How Reporters Use Social Media and How It Impacts the Public At-Large (Part 2)

By Courtney Cash, BMF Digital and Social Media Account Executive

This blog is a continuation of last week’s post, Emerging Trends in How Reporters Use Social Media and How It Impacts the Public At-Large (Part 1) where BMFer Courtney Cash discussed how reporters are using social media today and why speed is such an important factor. In this week’s post, we’ll run through the mixed bag of social media and discuss what trends we can expect to see emerge in the near future.

The Impacts and “Double-Edged Sword” of Ideological Segregation in Reporting and Absorbing News

Both of our media sources agree that strong and deep ideological segregation is affecting news reporting on social media as well as how it is absorbed by those receiving it. Hillyer indicates that “news sources have figured out that they do better when they ‘narrowcast’ and play to their base” putting the public in a cycle of self-perpetuation without understanding how the other side thinks or operates.  With so much news and commentary to choose from, people more and more are seeking sources that bring comfort to or reinforce their existing points of view, rather than challenging or broadening their perspectives. While both interviewees consider this a dangerous but on-going trend, it may bring some value to public debate and discussion by helping make people more expert in issues, albeit perhaps, only from the perspective they hold. Clearly, as Hillyer stated, “ideological segregation in reporting can be very much of a double-edged sword.”

Emerging Trendline: Reporters as Marketers of Themselves

A print reporter turned daily newspaper editor with over 35 years’ experience (whose employer preferred anonymity for his participation), adds another angle to present-day reporting. He believes that while reporters have always had to pitch or “market” their story angles to their editors, more and more, they are marketing both their outlet and themselves to the public-at-large. And that’s not all.

As long ago as 2013, a report from the Indiana University School of Journalism showed that many journalists also see social media as a vehicle for self-promotion, using social media to not only market their reporting, but market themselves as well. A recent story generated by two local journalists working in tandem with one another is a great case in point.  In this instance, the reporters produced a quick follow-up on their initial reporting which essentially touted their roles in facilitating progress in resolving a long-simmering dispute. Needless to say, their own social media does what it can to elevate their coverage and profile.

While Toward Better Tech Journalism anticipates “an even better kind of technology journalism rising in 2021,” I think we can all agree that news reporting on social media is our “new normal.” If anything, the reading and viewing public will only see new platforms popping up as old ones expand or disappear, and facts will always compete with non-facts in a way that challenges the reader or viewer to use social media responsibly. A word of advice from Mr. Hillyer- “do your own due diligence. Don’t refuse to listen to the other side just because they’re on the other side.”

In the final analysis, it is up to both the reporter and the reader to “use social media responsibly,” to establish boundaries, research the full story, and separate fact from opinion and news from commentary. Oddly perhaps, reporters and the public alike share common responsibilities and should follow conventional tests, asking themselves a few important questions before distributing or ingesting information from online: Who is telling me this information? Do I know this person? Is it someone in a position to know this information is true? Have they been proven to be credible in the past? Is this information being presented as fact or is there a spin I need to be aware of?