If you were anywhere on social media this week, most likely you saw “Robin Williams” trending on Facebook, #RIPRobin trending on Twitter or pictures of Robin on Instagram with captions such as “O Captain, my Captain. Rest in peace” (a reference to a line from Dead Poet’s Society, one of Williams’ most well-known movies).
The news of Williams’ death spread like wildfire across social media this week. In fact, I first heard about his death via Facebook.
Let’s take a step back and think about some of the most recent breaking news events. For example, how did you hear about the Hudson River plane crash? Or the announcement of the royal wedding? Or the Osama Bin Laden raid and his death?
All of these events first broke via social media.
According to mediabistro.com, over 50% of people have learned about breaking news via social media rather than official news sources. In fact, 46% of people get their news online at least 3 times per week.
With more and more people looking online as their main news source, is social media beginning to replace traditional journalism?
While this is a debatable issue, you can definitely say that citizen journalism is on the rise. Citizen journalism is based upon public citizens playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analyzing, and disseminating news and information. New media technology, such as social networking and media-sharing websites, in addition to the increasing prevalence of cellular phones, has made citizen journalism more accessible to people worldwide. Due to the availability of technology, citizens can often report breaking news more quickly than traditional media reporters.
While citizen journalism does provide immediacy and rapid dissemination, it can also have inaccuracy and missing facts. Additionally, traditional journalists are taught certain ethical standards to uphold when it comes to reporting. Because anyone is capable of breaking news online, sometimes journalistic integrity could be compromised.
So yes, social media is becoming a source for news. But it has not fully replaced traditional journalism. Remember, fast doesn’t always mean factual. Even if you use social media as a news source, always double-check your facts with a credible news source.
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