On the positive side, 40% of journalists surveyed said they source stories from social media on a daily basis, and 66% said it makes it easier for journalists to find sources. In terms of distribution, 89% said social media helps spread stories more quickly to increase readership. However 60% of the Aussie journos surveyed said social media represents a threat to high quality journalism, while 66% believe social media is decreasing journalists’ influence.
Last year Canterbury Christ Church University and Cision, a global PR and media services company, conducted a survey of 769 British journalists and found that just 39% said they believe social media improves their productivity. In the same survey just 27% of respondents said they believe social media allows greater engagement with readers, and a mere 23.7% said they believe it improves the quality of journalism. On the other hand, 28.1% of British journos said they couldn’t do their work without social media.
Clearly journalists hold a bunch of contradictory (and in some cases probably self-contradictory) opinions about social media’s impact on the profession, which is no surprise, since it basically reflects the variety of uses -- good and ill -- social media may be put to. And as with other professions, this says more about the people using social media than the tool itself.
On this note, social media does indeed enable journalists to do things like locate informed sources on obscure topics who might have flown under the radar before: I’m thinking of the monomaniacal blogger who knows literally everything about subject X (say, late Victorian subway design) but who had neither the platform nor the credentials back when every expert source had to have a Ph.D. and work in a university.
On the other hand, there are plenty of lazy, incompetent journalists out there, and social media can just as easily enable perfunctory, craptastic reporting. Here’s one favorite model nowadays: After event X, go on Twitter and see what people are saying about event X. Write down what people are saying on Twitter about event X. Cobble together with some lame segues (or don’t, actually: apparently it’s also fine to just post screenshots of dozens of tweets in a row, no commentary needed). File story. Pour drink and kick back. Congratulations, you’re a journalist!