Social media has been a huge factor in the changing dynamic of unfolding events and how they are reported to the public. In some situations, it is an effective way of quickly delivering information right to peoples’ personal devices.
The idea that print journalism is becoming a dying profession as publications shift towards online media is one that has been at the forefront of discussions and the internet as a medium is shifting the way that news is reported, as well as the speed at which information is delivered to the public. Platforms such as Twitter and Facebook allow the average citizen to immerse themselves into newsworthy events and broadcast their own messages to the masses.
The Boston marathon bombings on Oct. 22, 2013 was an event that unfolded in front of people’s eyes on live television, is an excellent example of the way social media affects the gathering of information. News outlets had to immediately switch from following the race, to (unnecessarily) trying solving the mystery of the cause of the blasts. When it was determined that the act was intentional, speculation began on who was to blame. This was quickly picked up online, and by a few days later, a Reddit thread that focused on finding the suspects had reached 2,000 active users.
This type of immediate, unfolding information creates a sense of continuity and urgency to bring criminals to justice. However, a common problem that arises from social media is misinformation. While the majority of the Reddit users were actively trying to track down who they thought might be the Boston Bombing suspects, many innocent bystanders were accused of being the terrorists. Unfortunately, many news sources also reported inaccurate information.
The question is whether or not social media is considered a credible source for information. The short answer is that it’s not. The average Joe reporting about a live event when he is present and witnessing is a great way to collect information, however it should not be considered legitimate until facts are confirmed with proper authorities. This is where the vital role of the professional Journalist comes in, and proof that the job a journalist will always be in demand.