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After doing my feature on social media and the journalist, I decided to create a glossary of social media websites which detail on their relevance to journalism. 

Blogger

Blogger is a blog-publishing service that allows private or multi-user blogs with time-stamped entries. It was bought by Google in 2003.

Blogger was created to give the public an easy way to share their thoughts about current events, what’s going on in their life, or anything else they’d care to discuss with the world. Blogger has developed a host of features to make blogging as simple and effective as possible

Blogger encourages people to post text, photos, videos and more, and as often as they want; it’s free. When you create your blog, you can host it for free on Blog*Spot by choosing an available URL.

Digg

Digg is a social news website, launched in 2004. It is made for people to discover and share content from anywhere on the Internet, by submitting links and stories, and voting and commenting on submitted links and stories. Topics that are discussed include business, entertainment, gaming, lifestyle, offbeat, politics, science, sports, technology, and world news.

Voting stories up and down is the site’s cornerstone function, respectively called digging and burying. Many stories get submitted every day, but only the most Dugg stories appear on the front page.

 Facebook 

 Founded in 2004, Facebook’s mission is to give people the power to share and make the  world more open and connected. Millions of people use Facebook everyday to keep up with friends, upload an unlimited number of photos, share links and videos, and learn more about the people they meet.

According to mashable, one of the key advantages of Facebook over other social platforms is the sheer number of potential sources it presents for journalists. By using tools such as Openbook or FBInstant on Facebook, journalists are able to find information they are looking for that is tied to specific news events or people. The trend toward more public information with new features on the site, such as Facebook Questions, which is entirely public, will only further Facebook’s utility as a tool for journalism.

More info on Facebook’s benefits as a journalistic tool available on mashable.

Flickr

Flickr is an image hosting and video hosting website acquired by Yahoo! In addition to being a popular website for users to share and embed personal photographs, the service is widely used by bloggers to host images that they embed in blogs and social media. In September 2010, it reported that it was hosting more than 5 billion images. For mobile users, Flickr has an official app for iPhone, BlackBerry and for Windows Phone 7, but not for other mobile devices.

According to Flickr, there has been 4,390 uploads in the last minute and 4.3 million tags so far this month. The website was set up as a community for people who love photography to share their photographs.

Flickr says that their “companion blog to Flickr is almost certainly the best online photo management and sharing application in the world.”

Linkedin

Launched in May 2003, it is mainly used for professional networking. As of March 2011, LinkedIn reports more than 100 million registered users, spanning more than 200 countries and territories worldwide.

 Twitter

Twitter is based in San Francisco, but it is used by people in nearly every country.  According to Twitter, on average 95 million tweets are written every day. Celebrating its fifth birthday last week, Twitter has become an essential tool to inform the masses during a crisis. Anyone and everyone can enjoy the benefits of Twitter. You are free to tweet as little or as much as you please as long as the message is 140 characters or below. Retweeting is action that helps to spread a certain message. This form of social media, like many others, is available on mobile devices through its free app.

Today, the process of journalism is taking place in public on media platforms such as Twitter. Breaking news becomes a process of publish, then filter. The journalistic functions of verification and authentication take place in public, done by both professional journalists and citizens.

Youtube

After founded in 2005 by Chad Hurley and Steve Chen, within 18 months the website became one of the most trafficked on the web. The company was sold to Google for $1.6 billion.

In 2009, Youtube has made it easier for citizen journalists to upload their videos. As soon as the Youtube Direct channel had been launched, it was being used by The Huffington Post and The Washington Post.

The YouTube Direct is a new tool that allows media organisations to request, review and rebroadcast YouTube clips directly from YouTube users. The channel is built from YouTube’s APIs and is an open source application which lets media organisations upload platform on their own websites. Users can upload videos directly into this application, which also enables the hosting organization to easily review video submissions and select the best ones to broadcast on-air and on their websites. 

For more information about this launch look refer to the article on the Independent.

And what made this all possible…Web 2.0

Web 2.0 is the popular term for advanced Internet technology and applications including blogs, wikis, RSS, and social bookmarking. The two major components of Web 2.0 are the technological advances enabled and the user empowerment that they support. Tim O’Reilly is generally credited with inventing the term.

One of the most significant differences between Web 2.0 and the traditional World Wide Web (Web 1.0) is greater collaboration among Internet users and other users, content providers, and enterprises.

Originally, data was posted on Web sites, and users simply viewed or downloaded the content. Increasingly, users have more input into the nature and scope of Web content and in some cases exert real-time control over it.

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Some call it a social tool. Others prefer; communication tool. Better still, it is a tool which anyone is qualified to use. The tool is social media, and today, anyone is a citizen journalist.

As Twitter celebrates its fifth birthday it becomes clear that the social network site is not just about revelling in how many followers you have, or what your favourite celebrity is busy doing. It has become a space where everyone is free to upload, inform and comment on ‘news’. Journalism is changing in the fact that the citizen is no longer a passive audience but has become, as Paul Staffo quoted in the Economist, an “active participant in the creation”.

The microblogging site known as Twitter is acknowledged for its fast-paced news reporting, uploaded by both professional journalists and the public. Studies have indicated that one of the motivational reasons for using Twitter is for information purposes. In other words, people increasingly use the site to gain and follow information. As of recent, Twitter has become a breaking news tool, playing an essential role in informing the masses in times of a crisis. In an interview with social media expert, Jo Da Silva, she explains that Twitter is where the information goes first and it is often from people experiencing the event first hand, which she adds is what  “journalism should be about”.

This involvement of citizen journalism can be seen in the social outlet of blogging, this medium is encouraging in the fact that anyone and everyone can write a blog and be a part of the process. Bloggers have “acquired a certain level of influence by setting the agenda of what the big media should cover,” Rosales argues. Similar to Twitter, personal blogs have become successful in informing the public in a time of crisis. The live blogging of Al Jazeera was a focal point for information during the protests in Egypt, as information and user generated content (UGC) were streamed worldwide.

The effects of the Tokyo eathquake

 In these times of crisis, communication which is usually taken for granted became unavailable. During the recent Tokyo Earthquake phone lines were cut off within an hour of the first quake, similarly, all communication was down during the Haiti earthquake, and throughout the protests in Egypt there was minimal access to the internet. Social media became the sole distributor of information worldwide, during which time, the most involving and relevant information came directly from first hand experiences.  Due to social media’s universal usability, and the benefits of Web 2.0, the public were (and still are) able to spread the news like wildfire.

Student protests in London

I interviewed David Ricketts, a senior reporter for Ignite Europe, to establish the perspective from a professional journalist. In reference to the student protests of London 2010, David commented on the coverage received and made a clear distinction between the two forms of reporting the event.  He described how national news stations were providing an overview of the action from (most likely) a helicopter, whereas “journalists in the thick of the action were able to give a minute by minute update of what was going on at ground level”.

The UGC which was gained from journalists in the “thick of the action” was welcomed on social network sites Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and Flickr.

Social media is an essential tool in broadcasting first-account experiences. An hour after the initial quake hit in Japan, tweets from Tokyo reached 1,200 per minute as this was seen as the quickest and most effective way to get accomplish the wildfire effect.

This becomes clear when you read this tweet from India, available from memeburn,com: @Hussy26 said, “Miyagi is centre of earthquake..all nuclear centers has been closed, visuals are stunningly dangerous…tsunami everywhere.”

Likewise, eye-witnesses at the scene of the Discovery Channel hostage situation in 2010 tweeted the action which broke the news to the masses. The following tweet, cited by James Calder, was one of the earliest to be uploaded: @wasroykosuge said, “A bunch of cops w guns and machine guns drawn surrounding the #discovery corporate building.”

Twitter’s limit of 140 characters allows people to communicate with as little misunderstanding as possible, an essential in a crisis.

National newspapers and news channels have praised the social media outlets in recent years for the informative content available.  The Guardian ran a story in response to the Haiti earthquake acknowledging the effectiveness of the social media in spreading news. Similarly, the 2005 underground and bus bombings in London received material from the public that was for the first time “considered more newsworthy than professional content,” according to Torin Douglas. Images and videos uploaded by the public was information that led the BBC television newscasts.

 A similar approach was taken during the Haiti earthquake. According to The Guardian, the vice president of news station CNN immediately moved someone supervising social media and the iReports to the ‘Haiti desk’.

The influence of social media and UGC has certainly kept professional journalists on their toes. As its usage is increasingly spreading into the mainstream media, leading the BBC news broadcast and breaking news to the masses through tweets, does this compromise the position of journalists today? I asked David if the notion of Rosales’ argument that “today, anyone can become a media mogul” could determine a decline for professional journalism.

 David acknowledges this argument, however he says; “the proliferation of all this material only heightens the need for good quality journalists to disseminate the material out there and relay this in a way that is concise and easy for readers to digest.” Robert Niles advised, via OJR, that in a breaking news story, journalists need to strive to find the best sources in the community and to share these identities with the reader. David further adds that “journalism is much more of a craft”, making a clear distinction between professional and citizen journalism.

Through the constant updating and new trends, it is essential for professional journalists to remain on the ball. Journalists are having to adopt to this fundamental shift in communication, pivoting between using the community as a source and as an audience. Deuze, an academic in social media, argues the presence of UGC challenges the established modes of journalism, undermining the “we write, you read” dogma. The participation of the masses in social media has resulted in a shift in the role of the journalist, as expert Jo clarifies, “the ‘news’ is not only seen through the eyes of the reporter.”

This is a process which newer and younger journalists may find easy to adapt to, but spare a thought for the journalist from the older generation who can remember a time press releases were received via a courier bike. David started as a journalist just over three years ago and has always been familiar with using the internet as a form of research and communication. He says, “Social media is a just an extension of that and another form of communication for me.”

It is extremely beneficial for journalists to exercise this tool in publicising their work. Deputy Editor, Rob Langston says social media has allowed his company; What Investment to “connect with a wide-ranging and far-flung audience”, which allows them to respond quickly to feedback. For David, Twitter is good way to communicate and share ideas with fellow financial reporters from various publications and national newspapers. However, caution should be exercised in the handling of this powerful tool. Due to the bottomless amount of noise on the internet, it is hard to distinguish between fact and fiction. Robert Niles adds: the effect of “massive retweeting allows false information to spread globally”.

“So, is social media reshaping journalistic practises?” I ask David.

“Well”, he answers, “let’s put it this way”, I’m sure politicians never thought five years ago that their debates in the House of Commons would ever be tweeted by political journalists to the online masses!”                                                                                                

And on that note, I leave you with my optimistic reasoning that the future of social media can only get bigger and better, especially in an inevitable increase of mainstream involvement. I am confident social media will continue to grow and develop, while the professional journalists will still be attributed for their efficient communication and craft of writing.

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A Lucky Escape

The Hostel, Christchurch

A friend uploaded this picture of the hostel he was staying at when the Christchurch earthquake struck, through his social network site: Facebook, twitter and his website.

Currently travelling with his girlfriend in New Zealand Rob confirmed along with this picture of the hostel they that they were thankfully safe, and had escaped the earthquake unharmed. Several pictures like this can be seen over the internet, especially through User Generated Content (UGC) and posted on sites such as YouTube and Flickr. A flood of links were posted over twitter, which is where I first heard about the earthquake on the morning of the 22nd February. To be honest if I didn’t go on twitter when I did, I probably wouldn’t have found out about the disaster until hours later that day.

It is times like this when social media is a great means of communication. Through its usage, Rob was able to connect with his loved ones in which they could comment back, confident that he would read it. This picture acts as a documentation of the earthquake, and therefore informs the public of the severity of the earthquake. Due to the high technology of web 2.0 people are able to share this information on the internet and are able to interact through commenting on the UGC.

Sleeping protest at Tahrir Sq

Similar usage of social media is recognised in the live blogging of journalists in Egypt. Due to the near internet black out while the protests were taking place in Egypt the public were desperate for news. The live blogging of Al Jazeera became a popular source of information. The international news network streamed current videos and pictures (pictured right) of the protests and demonstrations thst were taking place in Egypt. The network was an effective source of information throughout the crisis, and the brilliant usage of the social media is responsible for this!

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