A Pulitzer prize for investigative tweeting may not be that far-fetched, said Southern Methodist University journalism professor Jake Batsell, at the 2011 Society of American Business Editors and Writers conference in Dallas. Consider the work being done by NPR’s Andy Carvin, who spends hours every day posting curated news about the Middle East on his Twitter feed. An assessment by the Nieman Journalism lab said that “Carvin’s work cultivating sources and sharing their updates has turned curation into an art form, and it’s provided a hint of what news can look like in an increasingly networked media environment.”
Here are some key ways that social media is changing the news, according to the panel:
Social media makes news sources less competitive with each other
Social media has created communities of journalists; it is common practice, for instance, for journalists on Twitter to retweet their competition. Readers don’t care about which news source scoops a story, they care most about which source gives them them the most comprehensive picture of the day’s news. This has created a shift in the culture of journalism, in which writers and editors recognize the need to share with and be plugged into rival news sources.
“This is the first time I’ve ever been friends with my competitors the way I am now. We have a community of personal finance editors [on social media], and we really support each other,” said Lauren Young, Reuters’ personal finance editor.
Social media can display the evolution of a news story
The context and analysis that traditional news stories offer is no longer unattainable by social media. Storify.com, which is currently in the beta stage, allows journalists to pull tweets and pictures into a chronological cascade of information. Tools such as Storify.com demonstrate the potential of social media to tell a coherent story.
News breaks on social media before it does on traditional media
Only 1 to 2% of msnbc.com’s traffic is driven by Twitter says MSNBC’s executive business editor Marty Wolk. “It’s not a huge traffic driver, but it’s definitely a place we need to be,” he said. The reason is that the news lives on social media platforms as much as it does traditional news sources. “You pick up a lot of things that you might not see otherwise,” Wolk says.