Not too long ago there were no phones,and if there were, they were the size of bricks and could not support internet services. Internet was accessed on huge PCs by connecting cables to the telephone. The TV and radio were the first choices to go to for news but now, we know it even before we see or hear it. How fast things have changed! Why the change? Social media. Almost everyone is on it. Picture it as a large group of people in one room with a loud speaker in front of them. So when person speaks through it, almost everybody can hear what’s being said. People in Zambia no longer have to wait for the ‘main news at 7pm’ to know what’s happening. TV and radio are not the first place one goes to find that information anymore these days. With news agencies themselves on social media, news is travelling faster than the speed of sound from TVs or radios to millions of people every day. The use of interactive hashtags is also helping to garner conversations online between people from various backgrounds, even countries, on one topic, so that opinions can be easily gathered on different issues. There might be a worry that good old journalism may die out to social media but I doubt it. There’s always a story to cover that needs an analytical approach to topics and journalists are trained to know what questions to ask, questions that social media may not answer for the rest of us. There is also the fact that some stories that make the news will need visual representation, whether pictures or video. True, you may argue that people affected will Twitpic their plight, but would you personally be thinking of social media in a war zone for example, with gunshots and bombs all around you? Nope. The journalists risk their lives to get the scoop, and give it you. What can Zambian media houses do to avoid being wiped out by social media?
- Be on social media!! If everyone is using it so should you. Get a following, share your news stories, provide links to your website, to podcasts, to videos and pictures (call them never-seen-before ONLY if they are from your hidden reserves), interact with the listeners/viewers as much as you can.
- Upgrade your journalists: Let your journalists have work accounts on Twitter or Facebook so people can ask questions directly. This may even help them with information of the people affected take part online and give their stories. It gives you leads instantly as a journalist.
- Respond: The people you’re telling stories want to hear more so make this possible. Reply to all important questions out in the open so others who may have a similar question may get their answer from there too. If the topic is too sensitive, state so, but atleast in the end you’ve replied.
- Don’t believe the hype: Not everything your listeners/viewers tweet or post on your wall is legit. Make sure you check it out. Run through the story’s facts and confirm events. Visit places you need to to get the true scope of the story. That’s your job anyway. You always have to follow the process below if you’re getting stories from social media:
Conclusion: Social media will not be the death of journalism. Think of it as a rebirth of media, how news spreads and is acquired. Media houses just need to know how to use social media right and give even better stories. As long as the platforms are used well, no journalist will ever have to fear a pink slip. Image Credits: Watchdog Wire, Google, Laurel Papworth, Twitter