Sign in

How Social Media has Become a Vital Tool for Journalism

Journalists have learned how to best utilize social media in order to share news and implement new storytelling methods.

Whenever I want to find out what’s happening in the world, I, along with many other users, find myself checking the Twitter trending pages instead of news websites to fill me in on what the biggest stories are at the moment. Most of the time, it’s nothing truly important; other times, I find breaking news like the Capitol Riots or updates on Derek Chauvin’s trial. In an effort to better inform users, news organizations and journalists have used social media like Twitter to reach bigger audiences. However, social media lacks the standards of professionalism and credibility that the journalism industry is held to; it’s now journalists’ job to uphold these journalistic standards on social media to keep informing the public.

Over the years, news organizations have adapted to the digital space and used social media as a tool to report and share news in a more concise, attention-grabbing way. A common way reporters do this is by sharing their articles on Twitter. New York Times reporter Libby Seline shared an article her and a team of other reporters worked on about the coronavirus’s effect on the U.S. prison population. Reporters and news organizations take advantage of the thread feature on Twitter when sharing an article to highlight key points of the article. Other reporters like Anne Thériault offer behind-the-scenes commentary on their experience producing the article.

Bloomberg News reporter William Turton decided to create a thread on an article The Intercept published about the aggressive tactics used by NYPD’s Strategic Response Group (more commonly known as “the Goon Squad”) against protesters. Turton directly quotes the article while also uploading a video he shot of the SRG’s response to BLM protesters back in June 2020. Reporters must constantly stay engaged online in an effort to constantly feed news to the public; however, the workload of building entire news packages can be extremely overwhelming. A way to minimize this workload is to engage with other reporters’ work while providing commentary for their own audience. This is especially helpful when there’s breaking news and not enough time to publish an entire article. In this instance, Turton saw an opportunity to offer evidence for the article’s main claim, which enabled him to produce more content for his followers.

While some news organizations are just getting comfortable on Twitter and Facebook, others are diving onto new social media platforms in an effort to take advantage of new spaces and reach new audiences. Highly reputable news organizations like The New York Times and CNN are not active on TikTok yet, but The Washington Post, NBC News, and MSNBC have been producing content consistently and have built decent followings.

TikTok reporter and producer Meghann Ludemann is the face of NBC News’s TikTok account. Amassing almost 800 thousand followers, Ludemann posts short videos of herself or news broadcasts/footage on the account to keep her followers in the loop on the latest news. As the face of NBC News on TikTok, Ludemann does a great job of taking advantage of TikTok’s features to fully engage the audience like replying to users comments with videos, using captions to make videos more accessible, and even posting funny videos of herself to keep up with TikTok trends. In my opinion, Ludemann understands TikTok as a platform and understands her audience; thus, she is able to present the news in a way that is concise, informative, and entertaining to a younger audience.

In 2020, MSNBC started to regularly use its TikTok account to share clips of news broadcasts and interviews. Unlike NBS News, there’s no spokesperson for the account; it’s just a feed of videos. Perhaps with more consistent and relevant posting, MSNBC will be able to grow its audience past the 64 thousand followers they have now.

Journalists have been able to adapt to and take advantage of social media to inform the public. However, social media is a completely different space and constantly evolving; therefore, specific guidelines are becoming necessary to uphold journalistic standards on these platforms. The New York Times published their social media guidelines in 2017, but updates them to reflect changing policies on social media. These guidelines act as NYT’s standards and practices they expect of their reporters when it comes to the reporters’ social media activity.

Social media has become ubiquitous in today’s society and journalists’ have learned how to use social media as a tool to continue informing the public. As old platforms die and new ones arise, it is becoming vital for journalists to not only understand the functions of social media, but also the nuances of social media and which practices are best for credible storytelling. Furthermore, it’s become necessary for news organizations to produce guidelines regarding reporter conduct on social media to protect their reputation.