Tag Archives: bbc

Are we entering the age of the Social Media Election?

28 Mar

Caroline James @CarolineJames1

While we’re all excited about the Royal Wedding on the 29th April, it’s the 5th May I’m looking forward to.  While there’s perhaps a little less anticipation in the lead up to the AV referendum in comparison to the hysteria surrounding Kate Middleton’s dress, it marks an exciting moment for anyone looking at how journalists turn to social media to cover news stories these days.

In fact, Paul Waugh from PoliticsHome even makes a nifty comparison between past elections and the upcoming nuptials on Charlie Beckett’s POLIS blog: “It’s going to be a very social media Royal Wedding. Like the election debates, it will be TV that gets the big audiences but it will be the online networks that feel the buzz…Everyone will get a chance to have their say, regardless of the official or mass media coverage.”

So, how will coverage of the voting on the 5th May differ to what we saw last May in the General Election? We’ve already seen the BBC live blogging its election coverage and The Telegraph had an interactive election map, to name just two tools journalists have used in their past coverage.

With the arrival of the latest app – an iPhone canvassing app – this election will be what Peter Murrell, chief executive of the SNP, calls in a Caledonian Mercury article: “the first social media election”.  He claims: “the Tories spent a lot of money on social media last year but the country wasn’t quite ready. This year it is.”

And if MPs are using iPhone apps to canvas and Twitter and Facebook to connect with the electorate, you can bet your bottom dollar, the journalists won’t be far behind.  Take for example, how much discussion’s been stimulated by the referendum and, more to the point, the platforms being used on which to discuss the issues: there’s a Google groups AV debate and even a Facebook app that lets you try out AV, using polls and trivial examples:

Fun examples help the young (and typically apathetic) engage with what the referendum’s all about!

And for the journalists? Well the struggle to engage young people with politics is a subject about which the journalist typically finds much to write – even the BBC’s at it! So FB apps like this one get their own fair share of news coverage, for instance on this LSE blog post.  Social media is increasing the demographic who can follow, participate in and enjoy the upcoming election (referendum).  And the journalists have picked up on that: it’s not just straight results coverage with statistics and analysis anymore.

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Social media and fake stories: how the journalist is reasserting control

22 Mar

Caroline James @CarolineJames1

One of the most significant aspects of using social media to generate online journalistic content is the speed with which stories break, spread and go viral.

But citizen journalists, unlike their official counterparts, don’t have the need to go to quite the same lengths to verify their sources and corroborate their stories. And the anonymity of the Internet makes it all that much harder.  The result? Hoaxes and false stories become trends faster than the mainstream media can pick up the phone to check the facts.

How do you trace a story you’ve heard from someone else, when that person heard it from someone else before and so on? Paul Bradshaw discusses a three-pronged approach to the issue: through content, context and code, he argues we can verify how true those unbelievable stories being disseminated over the Internet really are.  The chances are, they’re just that: unbelievable.

But, I would argue the non-story BECOMES a story by virtue of the speed at which it spreads and the reaction it engenders.  Doesn’t it say something of the nature of people consuming the news that the stories that get the biggest reader reaction – that is, the ones that make you go: “How funny/interesting/ridiculous! I best send that link on to X,Y and Z” – are rarely the big movers and shakers in terms of international importance.

Examples of these hoaxes can be found in their hundreds.  Take the latest story to do the rounds on FB: that Marck Zuckerberg would be shutting down FB on 15th March because of “stress”.

The one that sticks in my mind is the World Cup hysteria surrounding the alleged ban by the police on the St. George’s flag.  Now if ever there was a subject more perfectly poised to engender reaction it was this one.  Friends of mine, outraged, changed their FB statuses ad infinitum and we all decried the PC brigade for their anti-nationalist feeling.

Except it was a hoax.

FB posts like this one capitalised on World Cup fever and spread faster than England left the tournament

So while the outrage spread within minutes on social media, the traditional journalists didn’t see it.  Take the above post from one of my FB network; he posted this on 19th May 2010.  It was two days later that the BBC covered the story, revealing it to be a hoax.  It does not take two days to ring the police and confirm the story, an intern can do it in 10 minutes!

And when we had Charlie Sheen’s death announced on Twitter just weeks ago – twice – NowPublic began reporting it was more than just an innocuous, false story: it was a virus.  Hoaxes spread quickly and viruses are masquerading as them for this very reason.

So where do they come from? Scambusters.org argue that the rise in hoax stories is symptomatic of our obsession with celebrity culture.  And these false stories are self-perpetuating because many celebrities who crave publicity are happy to profit from the attention.

These stories are false.  Reporting a false story is not journalism, reporting ON a false story is.  A case in point is the excellent Starsuckers documentary from 2009 – check out the YouTube video of it:

Once again, social media is helping to forge new inroads into online journalism – and the hoax stories are providing the raw materials to do this.

When social media is The News

28 Dec

Caroline James @CarolineJames1

What happens if social media isn’t used to tell a story, but is the story itself?

I’ve just used Google News to search for “Facebook”.  In the past day, there have been over 72,oo0 uses of the word Facebook across the 4,500 “English-language news sources” collated by Google News.

Some of these are instances of the role social media plays in contemporary journalism: The Guardian tells us how the social networking site was used to help police hunt for clues after Joanna Yeates disappeared.  There are also reports from Matt Tran at Online Social Media of the numerous Facebook pages which have sprung up in tribute to her death.  Here we have a clear example of how social media has become an intrinsic part of journalistic news gathering, as well as in reporting the news.

There are, however, more navel-gazing aspects of Facebook for the journalist.  We have hits under the search “Facebook” returned in the following areas:

Business – Google News tells me there’s 52 related stories, The New York Times among them, about the trade in Facebook shares, in spite of the fact that the company is privately held.

Technology – Where I’d expect a Facebook story to crop up, in a subsection called Techland, part of Time’s online offering.  And according to the experts there, the more friends we have on Facebook, the bigger our “amygdala”.  Check out the article if you want to know if that’s a good thing or not.

Legal – I discovered a pupil in Florida has pursued successful legal action after being suspended after making comments about a teacher on Facebook.  32 articles on the subject will surely provide some comfort to all those students out there who worry about the damage a drunken Facebook photo might have done to their job prospects.

So, Facebook news stories aren’t just to be pigeonholed as technology based.

Social media isn’t a niche that can be categorised per se, but its functions overlap many aspects of journalism.  If I was writing in October 2010, I’d be able to count in my Google News search the articles about the film The Social Network following Mark Zuckerberg’s roller-coaster ride revolutionising modern communication with Facebook.  It’s not just the news taking its cue from social media, now Hollywood’s at it, too!

Is it only a matter of time before Facebook adds its own news function?

It could take the form of listing the most popular news stories, like the BBC.  Or, perhaps the most popular links flying around Facebook would give it its own “Most shared on Facebook” hierarchy of news.

We know that the YouTube Gap Yah video which went viral –  incidentally, it has over 3,000,000 views to date – benefited from Facebook friends sharing the link with each other.  Just think how much faster it would’ve spread if the first thing you were directed to when you logged on to Facebook  was a table showing you that 75% of all your Facebook friends had clicked on that link…

Facebook wouldn’t be the first social media site to collate popular topics.  Twitter has its “trending” which must be one of the most up-to-date and immediate ways of tracking the most discussed news of the day:

So, Mark Zuckerberg, if you’re reading this: we’re ready for Facebook to give something back to the news it’s so often responsible for generating.

My Twitter Epiphany

11 Nov

By Ian Kearney

Only a matter of weeks ago I joined Twitter and subscribed to the various news agencies, merely as a college exercise, and already Im using this social media tool as a first source for all my online journalism needs.

On my last trip home to Ireland I sat in an average restaurant in Heathrow airport, paying above average prices for below average food.

Affixed on the wall in front of me a plasma television broadcasting Sky News.

“Breaking news – Suspect packages found on planes at UK airport and in Dubai.” Not the words you want to see on any news report, especially if you are at an airport and even more so if you’re a nervous flyer.

Sky News Television coverage from East Midlands airport

The airport was noisy and I couldn’t quite grab the details of the story, needless to say Sky’s Steve Dixon was infinitely calmer than I was. Then as instinctively as changing gears in a car I pulled out my smart phone, logged into my Twitter account and intercepted updates from Sky Breaking News, BBC Breaking News, Itv News, Channel 4 News and various other news agencies.

As the various agencies tweeted away I was finding out the latest updates soon after the newsrooms themselves and from what I could gather before the venerable Steve Dixon, himself.

I could have used the internet on my phone to go to any news agency’s website but instead I chose to go straight to Twitter.

Why? Quite simply Twitter gave me the ability to check what all the agencies were saying all at once and in 140 characters rather than having to go in and out of each website reading through reams of copy.

In March 2009 Sky News hired Ruth Barnett as their “Twitter” or “Social Media Correspondent” and earlier this year Journalism.co.uk revealed that Sky News had installed Tweetdeck on all their reports computers in what Ms Barnett described as a process of embedding social media throughout the whole team.

This is as clear a sign as any that social media and online journalism go hand to hand and are here to stay.

Sky's Breaking News Twitter account instantly updating the suspect package story.

To get back to Heathrow, when it emerged that the suspect package was on a runway in East Midlands and of no immediate threat I breathed a sigh of relief, ordered a stiff drink and made my way to the departures gate, for which I was already running late.

A whole multitude of questions arises in this field; how is social media affecting online journalism? How is journalism affecting social media? Is social media changing how we source stories? Is social media changing the way we consume news?

This blog will attempt to address some of these questions as well as others in the area.