Social media has made story access for journalists much easier, am I right? I mean, if you really think about it, a journalist can browse through Facebook or Twitter and pick up a something of news value to report on. Wrong.
A Canadian news article weighs the pro’s and con’s that social media has on the lives of the everyday journalist and how it has created in turn, a pack mentality among them. But what is “pack journalism?” The first known use of pack journalism was coined in 1972 and is meant to describe a form of journalism that is “practiced by reporters in a group and is marked with uniformity of news coverage and lack or original thought or initiative.” Not an encouraging market point for advertising the profession, and in ways; social media is to blame.
To be fair, social media is a tremendous asset to the world of journalism. It provided a whole new outlet for journalists to find stories, sources, and key information. However, when every journalist nowadays is using social media as a tool, it can become a vice. When it comes to social media use in the newsroom and who journalists follow, reporter Peter Cowan says it best,
“Sometimes, though, it seems that who journalists are following the most closely are each other.”
However, despite the convenience of tweets and likes, I would say that social media is transforming the role of a journalist. More traditional folks would probably say that it has killed conventional journalism. Given pack journalism, journalists are getting their information from other journalists. If there is a mistake or error in what is written, the chain of suffering goes on until someone catches the error. This compromises that one basic rule we all learned in our introductory to journalism courses… maintain your credibility and legitimacy.
Journalists in the realm of social media find themselves getting lazy. We were once taught to go out and find stories, reach out to people, raise every stone etc. Now, our stories are just one swipe away every time we refresh our news-feeds. If journalists are holding each other accountable for stories and beats, what happens when the well runs dry? Will there be a generation that would be incapable of going out into the field on a beat?
Increased social media usage has increased the amount of journalists who have fallen into “packs.” Breaking these packs are key if we want to get back into pure journalism. We can all but hope, that stage of the profession hasn’t gone extinct. Cowan put it best,
“I’m not immune to this. I follow lots of fellow reporters on Twitter and if I think they have a good story, I’ll pick up the phone to try and match it. But that instinct may be hurting journalism instead of helping it. Sadly, in this day of shrinking newsrooms it means there are fewer people chasing fewer stories. It’s a reminder to me as a journalist to spend less time keeping an eye on my colleagues and more time looking for stories in places others aren’t. And next time I’ll look more closely before I eagerly share the next nugget of news.”