With increased social media and more expedited modes of communication, the face of journalism has changed from television hosts to a purported public population. In the past, journalists were people who wrote for newspapers, magazines or prepared news for broadcasting companies. Journalism as defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary is either edited news presentation through the media, public press or an academic study of news presentation through media. The term could also be used to describe writing designed for publication in a newspaper or magazine; writing characterized by a direct presentation of facts or description of events without an attempt at interpretation, writing designed to appeal to current popular taste or public interest. With technology allowing us to broadcast information to a wide audience, printed newspapers, magazines and television no longer appeal to us, and we turn to other sources to abstract information.
In this day and age, particularly among millennials, we are able to find out about the news from social media sites like Facebook and Twitter or online versions of well-established newspapers. Regardless of the outlet, the rise of technology in our society has allowed for voices of regular people to be heard by millions of people within seconds. Consequently, this ability for the layperson to inform the greater public with a tweet or Facebook post has carved the way for anyone to become a journalist. Editing and news information no longer require a long tedious process, and we can appeal to a wide audience as technology has allowed information and popular culture to spread at speeds much faster than the press.
Recently, the umbrella revolution, sparked by a change in the city’s electoral system by the ruling communist party of China had occurred in Hong Kong. I remember immediately finding out about the event through Facebook when friends posted statuses and shared information on my Facebook “Newsfeed” regarding the events. Although halfway across the world, I was informed about the ongoing protests within seconds in Hong Kong, and shared photos of police armed with tear gas, and citizens blocking the roads of the fast pace finance districts and centers. Some friends were in support of the protesters, even among them, while others were not. On Facebook, I saw reactions from friends at Wellesley, my high school, and residing in other countries. As a second hand observer, I was more intimately involved in events of the protest than I would have been had I found about the revolution from a news reporter broadcast on TV or from a New York Times publication. I had seen a direct presentation of facts, and my friends were the reporters.
As the world becomes more globalized, our networks and community expand. Some may say this information we receive through peers on social media platforms are more reliable, while others argue it is less reliable.
Even though the press could be viewed as more reliable than social media platforms, biased views could take place regardless of the official title of established companies. The Fox News controversies are an example of all the errors that could occur with news companies. The online encyclopedia people use to discover and double check facts. Although we know that anyone can post on Wikipedia, many people from students, homemakers and even many in the workforce, rely on it heavily as a source of information.
Moreover, even newspaper companies such as The New York Times and The Chronicle have created online pages and accounts on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter for people to follow, and that is mixed into a feed of posts and publications from friends and family. As you scroll through what is called a “newsfeed,” information from a variety of different sources combined becomes the way in which you hear about news. In lieu of printing, Buzzfeed, Elite Daily, Huffington Post and other younger newspaper companies also gather most of their reader base online as an adaption to the popularization of technology to abstract news information.
Many of these companies are now accepting articles from writers who are not professional journalists. Consequently, companies are broadening the definition of the word journalist, in that anyone with knowledge and information can publish, as long as they have access. Formal education for journalism could enhance prior knowledge and solidify a background in the subject, but it is no longer necessary to be a reporter. In relation to the question of whether technology has allowed us to all become journalists, Dalila Stanfield ’18 feels, “Journalism is more than just posting information. It’s about research, interviews and interpersonal communication. If bloggers communicate with one another that can count as journalism, but there must be some sort of research or credibility to it. That’s why blogs exist, because people want to have a voice.”
How is a post by Diane Sawyer different from a post by a college student? As a NBC journalist, Sawyer’s tweets are more motivated on gaining viewers and followers, so her account may involve more eye-catching information and events for a broad audience. The tweets of a college student, on the other hand, may be more about straightforward occurrences in her daily life and a voice for her daily struggles. Journalism professor at Salisbury University Jennifer Brannock Cox argues that when we post on social media, we become a journalist whether we intend to or not. She says these platforms are, “primary news-disseminating tools about which all reporters must be savvy.” However, Cox also asserts that information online is not as reliable because, “when anyone can post anything any time without restraint, the perpetuation of false and subjective information is inevitable.” Although journalism disregards false and subjective information, there is still much true information that people gather from social media, allowing journalism to be open to the public. Still, some believe that journalism is not a title that was broadened with the use of technology. When asked whether anyone could become a journalist with the use of social media allowing reporting to occur anywhere, Surisadai Aquit’ 18 said, “No, not everyone can be a journalist because it is a profession and you need to study to become one, it is a career and occupational title.” However, her boyfriend, Chang Wook Joo, a second year student from South Korea at Berklee College of Music, shares a similar opinion to Professor Cox. He explains, “Yes, everyone could be considered a journalist, but it’s up to the reader to believe the information or not since it may not be accurate.”
Newspapers, magazines and television were important forms of communication in the past. But with the rise of technology in our society, everything must adapt. Journalism is no longer something that must be studied in order to be pursued. Anyone can become a journalist, because anyone has the tools to broadcast news information to the public. The public is also heavily relying on social media platforms as a means of learning news information. As Cox stated, with the inevitable perpetuation of false information, the reader now has more power in deciphering between the accuracy of information. Nonetheless, biases can prevail in any situation, and it is important to now adapt to the fact since our modes of communication have changed along with the position of journalism in our society. Even with recent events, we see social media as a key mechanism to change the media’s conversation.
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