Editorial – Social media

The editorial for May 19 discusses social media and the challenges it poses to newsrooms.

Social media has become a common conversation in newsrooms across the country. Not only do reporters, editors and publishers talk about whatever is trending on Facebook on a Monday morning, but also how to keep up with the advent of new platforms, all of which share ideas, messages and news.

Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and the like have put the publishing power into the hands of the masses. In today’s online world, everyone is a photographer, writer and editor, sharing information they deem worthy and relevant with ease.

No doubt this is an issue for newsrooms, as social media is challenging the very foundation the media is built upon. Instead of professionals gathering content and sharing information, everyone now has that ability, which can hinder the professional methods for doing so. Social media demands to be constantly fed with instant information, meaning newsrooms have to work double time to break stories. It’s most challenging during times of hard news. The need for information can be so intense that it jeopardizes the truth and authenticity of it. It takes away from the professionalism.

This is visible in our newsroom, as there are local interest Facebook groups that have garnered a large online audience, reaching thousands of people. Often, what these groups decided to share and exchange gets more traction than what our stories and work does. Honestly, it can be rather frustrating.

Recently, we released a series of articles dedicated to bear management. We decided to embark on the series after researching and reading some of the feedback on local interest sites. The issue of bears upsets people, and we wanted to provide well-researched and unbiased information in regards to how other municipalities handle bears in their area. We hoped the series would be well received, as we thought there was a need for this information. However, we received little feedback – positive or negative – on the series. We had hoped for more.

More recently, we noticed the article about the increase for mayor and council’s wages caused a stir on Facebook. Multiple people were commenting on a thread, saying how they were surprised by the increase and wondering if there was anything they could do to stop it from being implemented. I thought we would see more people in the gallery at the May 9 City Council meeting, where they were voting on the new financial plan. However, there weren’t many people there and none were there to ask about the remuneration. People seemed outraged on Facebook, but maybe not outraged enough to voice their concerns off-line and to Council themselves.

Social media is a relatively new player in the world of media, and I believe journalists are still trying to figure out how to best get along with it. While it can increase your audience, it can also be your biggest competition and detract from the exchange of authentic information.