Social News scenario

Social News

What if social media became the world’s pri­mary infor­ma­tion and media con­duit? We would live in a thor­oughly real-time soci­ety where any­thing that hap­pens any­where reaches any­one who cares before the echo even fades. Peo­ple would be con­stantly con­tribut­ing to the infos­tream, in the process redefin­ing what it means to be “news” and what it is to be a pro­fes­sional journalist.

Social media has turned out to be every­thing its pro­po­nents over the past decade said it could be, and then some. Regard­less, hav­ing grown to become the world’s pri­mary infor­ma­tion and media con­duit, social media has cre­ated a thor­oughly real-time soci­ety where any­thing Social News scenariothat hap­pens any­where can reach any­one who cares instantly. Hun­dreds of mil­lions, even bil­lions, of peo­ple are, more or less, con­stantly con­tribut­ing to the rapidly grow­ing infos­tream. It cer­tainly has rede­fined what it is to be news. As such, it has also fun­da­men­tally rede­fined both the public’s expec­ta­tions of and the tech­niques used by the jour­nal­ists who serve that soci­ety. Social media has changed the way the world receives, inter­acts and reports the news.

News is not sought out by peo­ple any­more for the most part. It sim­ply inter­sects with them as they go about their nor­mal inter­ac­tions with the con­stantly fluid col­lec­tion of peo­ple they asso­ciate with through the dom­i­nant social net­works of the day. It’s the full-grown evo­lu­tion of the meme started by some col­lege stu­dent who com­mented in some mar­ket­ing focus group back in 2008, “If the news is that impor­tant, it will find me.” Back then when the New York Times reported that line and oth­ers picked up on it as pithy, it seemed a lazy and even intel­lec­tu­ally dan­ger­ous atti­tude. But now that social net­works have become so per­va­sive and com­plex in the range of peo­ple and atti­tudes to which any indi­vid­ual is con­nected, it pretty much works. Only peo­ple who seem to have made a con­scious deci­sion to really limit their world­view and idea expo­sure can avoid hear­ing about any­thing that seems to mat­ter at least a lit­tle bit to some dis­cernible sub­set of society.

It's the full-grown evolution of the meme started by some college student who commented in some marketing focus group back in 2008, "If the news is that important, it will find me."

Once they hear about it, they can choose to mine their sphere of social con­nec­tions to learn more. If they become inter­ested or dis­cern­ing enough to start car­ing about sep­a­rat­ing pass-along from fact, they can choose to focus more atten­tion on the parts of their social sphere they would expect to be more in the know, such as some par­tic­u­lar jour­nal­ists they like. And if they really want to get into a par­tic­u­lar story in a really seri­ous, detailed way, they can always turn to the more slow-view media such as dig­i­tal mag­a­zines. But for the most part, peo­ple feel that what they pick up on through their social sphere is good enough – espe­cially when the pub­lic has come to value know­ing some­thing imme­di­ately when every­one else knows it, over wait­ing to know some­thing com­pletely and for sure. It’s actu­ally a very Amer­i­can demo­c­ra­tic free-speech “mar­ket­place of ideas” approach, expect­ing that the truth will win out in the end.

In a thor­oughly real-time envi­ron­ment, peo­ple have started to expect their infor­ma­tion to come to them, rather than hav­ing to seek out infor­ma­tion and news them­selves. Jour­nal­ists and news con­sumers are con­stantly inter­act­ing with news and infor­ma­tion as it is hap­pen­ing. The news con­sumer expects to know things as soon as the jour­nal­ist does and wants raw infor­ma­tion, even if it isn’t con­firmed. They want to receive news as it hap­pens, not after it hap­pens. Today’s read­ers do not want a pol­ished prod­uct upfront, but a vis­ceral and unedited, in-the-moment account of what hap­pens on the spot. They expect imme­di­acy, but not of preened and prepped, totally accu­rate data, on the spot. Read­ers have been sub­scrib­ing to news updates for a while now, receiv­ing a con­stant flow of mobile and e-mail alerts, as news hap­pens. This allows them to be con­stantly updated with the spe­cific news they want. Location-based news has become pri­or­ity with the real-time men­tal­ity. Topic-based jour­nal­ism has found another venue in mag­a­zines and in celebrity jour­nal­ists, but location-based news becomes the real-time news pri­or­ity. Accord­ing to loca­tion, break­ing news can be dis­trib­uted to mobile devices in the area, keep­ing read­ers informed about weather, traf­fic, adver­tis­ing deals, and immi­nently dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tions or crime scenes to avoid.

Peo­ple are com­mit­ted to jour­nal­ists, as opposed to news orga­ni­za­tions. In this increas­ingly real-time world, the news-scape has become mud­dled. Any­one can pub­lish any­thing online through Twit­ter, Face­book, or blogs. But jour­nal­ists, as a sort of brand, become the con­sis­tent and reli­able way to get news. Peo­ple used to put their faith in the New York Times or Wall Street Jour­nal. It defined them, like a nice hat or dress; their news­pa­per was part of their iden­tity. But now, as news­pa­pers are de-emphasized by the ease of cit­i­zen pub­li­ca­tion, peo­ple turn to a jour­nal­ist to be their brand, their reli­able source. This rein­forces the men­tal­ity of news com­ing to the reader. The reader does not comb through news sites to find it. This sim­pli­fi­ca­tion has become nec­es­sary as the news-scape grows and becomes less for­mal. Peo­ple look for tra­di­tional jour­nal­is­tic stan­dards in their jour­nal­ist of choice. This com­mit­ment allows peo­ple to fol­low and stay in con­stant update with what their favorite jour­nal­ists are cov­er­ing for a more global per­spec­tive of the news. These “celebrity jour­nal­ists” ful­fill the need for global news, since local news has become a mass-social effort.

Ultimately, in this real-time age, the reader would rather have immediate news, albeit biased or shoddily edited, from citizen journalists, than get delayed reports from professional journalists.

Cit­i­zen jour­nal­ists cover most local news since accu­racy took the back seat to imme­di­acy. Cit­i­zen jour­nal­ists are non-professional writ­ers, blog­gers, and pho­tog­ra­phers who doc­u­ment news or pro­vide opin­ion on events. They do not have a jour­nal­ism degree and they typ­i­cally report on local news, pro­vid­ing advo­cacy jour­nal­ism to their neigh­bors. Their accu­racy as untrained jour­nal­ists, and their ten­dancy towards report­ing with bias, incites a healthy skep­ti­cism in the reader. But ulti­mately, in this real-time age, the reader would rather have imme­di­ate news, albeit biased or shod­dily edited, from cit­i­zen jour­nal­ists, than get delayed reports from pro­fes­sional jour­nal­ists. Because read­ers are will­ing to accept cit­i­zen jour­nal­ist news, which is a free ser­vice, pro­fes­sional jour­nal­ists are typ­i­cally hired to cover national, inter­na­tional, or niche news. Although jour­nal­is­tic stan­dards still apply, inter­na­tional news has veered towards enter­tain­ment. In the real-time-expectant world, peo­ple are accus­tomed to imbu­ing news only directly con­nected to their inter­ests and loca­tion. If the news is for­eign or far-removed, news con­sumers demand enter­tain­ment as well as infor­ma­tion. The hour-long drab Night­line broad­casts can­not hold the atten­tion of news con­sumers with such a short atten­tion span. Their atten­tion span has con­formed to the short twit­ter blurbs and arti­cles mod­i­fied for cell phones. If peo­ple can’t directly relate to the news they receive, they want to receive it in comedic form.

§

I have grown up as a mem­ber of a socially con­nected soci­ety. Although I am now in col­lege, I have been inter­act­ing with social net­works since the day I was born. For as long as I can remem­ber Face­book, Twit­ter and other social net­works have been the pri­mary means of con­nec­tion with the world, as well as the news and infor­ma­tion I am inter­ested in. I can access a wide vari­ety of infor­ma­tion instan­ta­neously through my social net­works, and use this as a means of stay­ing con­nected with news through­out the day.

The news and media I con­sume is con­stantly cater­ing to me through my social net­works. Accord­ing to my mobile loca­tion, my social net­works adjust.

Every morn­ing I wake up and imme­di­ately reach for my smart­phone. It is my mobile con­nec­tion to my e-mail and news updates. I can access this con­nec­tion any­where, any­time, which allows my social news net­works to keep me up to date with every­thing that I want to know, as it is hap­pen­ing through­out the day. Com­mu­nity, state and global news, as well as fea­tures about cook­ing, fash­ion and pho­tog­ra­phy are the top­ics I have sub­scribed to. All other unspec­i­fied cov­er­age I receive is local. Break­ing news is broad­cast and updated with­out my con­sent, which feels inva­sive, but these updates are rare and only used for sit­u­a­tions that might be threat­en­ing to me– extreme weather, traf­fic jams, nearby crime. I am able to dis­able this device, but find it more assur­ing than intrusive.

The news and media I con­sume is con­stantly cater­ing to me through my social net­works. Accord­ing to my mobile loca­tion, my social net­works adjust. My “friends” on Face­book are a con­sis­tent fac­tor in my social net­work­ing sys­tem pref­er­ences, but loca­tion is assessed so that nearby stores will reach me through adver­tis­ing. I like shoe shop­ping and my social net­work knows that. When I go out of town, adver­tise­ments for that town’s shoe store will be the ones I see. This way I can stay up to date with break­ing news updates, infor­ma­tion about traf­fic or safety threats in the area.

The Inter­net has begun to uti­lize social media opti­miza­tion in an under­ly­ing way, not overtly. This allows me to receive news that is socially rel­e­vant to me. The more my friends and those I fol­low on social net­works ‘like’ or view spe­cific news or media, the more that infor­ma­tion becomes included in my own news updates. I read news briefs and emails for a half hour before even start­ing my day. This is my daily ‘brief­ing’ of all things Social Media Opti­miza­tion has deemed rel­e­vant to me, as well as the news social media opti­miza­tion has found to be extremely ‘liked’ by those in my net­works.  SMO is not an appli­ca­tion run­ning on the Inter­net. It is a process by which infor­ma­tion gets noticed because of how and why peo­ple “like” it. It serves you based on your con­nec­tions to peo­ple. I like what my friends like, generally.

Some aspects of news have become “real-time.” Social media has encour­aged an entirely new style of jour­nal­ism where news updates are con­tin­u­ously posted as new facts and infor­ma­tion sur­face. In some cases, this takes the place of post­ing pol­ished and com­pleted news sto­ries. Tan­gi­ble forms of news­pa­pers are long gone. They became obso­lete when news started to focus on more real-time issues; peo­ple began to want their news as it was hap­pen­ing, not the next day. Mag­a­zines have become the only tan­gi­ble out­let still in vogue. More in-depth report­ing and broader sto­ries are reported and ana­lyzed in the mag­a­zines, slow-form journalism’s new venue.

Social media has encour­aged an entirely new style of jour­nal­ism where news updates are con­tin­u­ously posted as new facts and infor­ma­tion sur­face. In some cases, this takes the place of post­ing pol­ished and com­pleted news sto­ries.

The con­stant updat­ing, real-time nature of most jour­nal­ism has made the social media land­scape apt for cul­tur­ing celebrity jour­nal­ists. As peo­ple pub­lish an array of their own infor­ma­tion and are bar­raged with infor­ma­tion from every other social media sub­scriber, news becomes mud­dled and over­whelm­ing. This is where celebrity jour­nal­ists come in. Fol­low­ing par­tic­u­lar jour­nal­ists who I trust to give me the news I want to hear about, allows me access to more spe­cial­ized news.

I have cho­sen to nar­row my scope on news by sub­scrib­ing to one par­tic­u­lar jour­nal­ist, Kate Matthews. Most peo­ple sub­scribe to just one because they all tell the same global/broad-scale news sto­ries, just with a dif­fer­ent spin. The infor­ma­tion you get from each celebrity jour­nal­ist is sim­i­lar, but the style and angle of their report­ing varies. I have become loyal to Kate, more than I am loyal to any­one who employs her. If she were to be hired by another net­work, I would fol­low her. When I want news out­side of my local realm, I watch Kate’s five-minute daily briefs, a quick, nightly, com­pi­la­tion of her twit­ter notes and sto­ries through­out the day. This makes it easy for me to catch up on global news, if I miss it in real-time. For enter­tain­ment news, my friends and I get together to watch Kate’s weekly 30-minute seg­ment dur­ing primetime.

Kate has been on the rise to star­dom since col­lege, when she interned for the Ore­gon­ian and then The New York Times. She is now in demand and publishers/broadcasters com­pete to hire her or license her con­tent that she pro­duces with a crew pro­vided by her publisher/licenser. She has had and grown with a loyal group of fol­low­ers. Like most celebrity jour­nal­ists, she has a niche mar­ket for her hour seg­ments. She caters mostly to women and often addresses envi­ron­men­tal issues more thor­oughly than most jour­nal­ists. Kate writes more in-depth sto­ries for monthly mag­a­zines. Her monthly sto­ries are usu­ally in-depth pieces that she col­lab­o­rates on with other jour­nal­ists. The oblig­a­tions of a celebrity jour­nal­ist leave lit­tle time for long-form specialization.

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