Social Media Tools for Journalists

Nowadays, there are a million things that journalists need to know. The newsrooms have shrunk, the responsibilities have piled up, and it seems like every day, there is a new social network that you need to join to remain relevant. Social media management can be a breeze if you just have the right tools, which is what I have here for you.

  • Bitly is an online link shortener that is a great tool to keep track of how popular your blog posts are. This application stores data on how many times a link you created was clicked, where it was clicked, what platform someone clicked on it from, and when it was clicked. This can help you ascertain when is the best time to share your content across platforms. Another great feature of Bitly is that it saves all of your links, so I never lose track of my work. It is important to remember to re-share your content especially if it is content that is “evergreen,” which means it never really goes out of style. Re-sharing content on social media is very “in” right now, according to industry leading professionals like Guy Kawasaki, a brand evangelist for Canva. facebook-share-default1
  • Buffer is a wonderful website that lets you schedule content across platforms. From Facebook to Twitter, Buffer does it all. Its simple design is extremely user-friendly, so it is really easy to get acquainted with. Unfortunately, you can only schedule 10 posts at a time without a subscription. I like to keep my Buffer full of past evergreen articles scheduled for future dates, so I know my past content will keep getting shared and read. buffer-app-screenshot
  • Klout can help you gain an influence on social media sites. You receive a “Klout score” upon signing up that shows how relevant you are based on your social media interactions. A score of 55 is considered to be an industry influencer. Klout allows you to explore different topics, which people aren’t yet talking about in your social circles. It then allows you to schedule posts you find at times that it knows your followers are most active. You can schedule as much content as you want on Klout, so you can watch your Klout score and influence on social media rise quickly. Klout can help you remain relevant through curating content across platforms. c4b5bbd6-b93b-4037-9b97-35fe0099f3e6
  • IFTTT, which stands for If This Then That, can automate processes to cut down on time that you have to spend on social media accounts. You can convert Tweets to Facebook page posts. You can save Tweets to your Google Drive. You can even have the weather texted to you in the morning. This app automates just about everything, and it can make your life so much easier, especially if you forget to share your content across platforms.IFTTT-Image-01-1024x716.png
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Do journalists need to appear unbiased in their personal lives?

It is crucial for traditional hard news reporters to appear that he or she lacks bias, so his or her work is not continuously called into question by the public for whom the journalist serves. In order to do so, a journalist must not participate in politics or demonstrations in his or her personal life. Although all people inherently have political opinions, a journalist must create a credible image for himself or herself in more than just articles, so the journalist can appear independent, balanced, fair and trustworthy to the public.

In the notorious case of Lesley Dahlkemper and Mike Feeley, Dahkemper had to give up her career as a journalist because she was engaged to Feeley who was running for governor. According to Black, Steele and Barney, “The political reporter [Dahlkemper] already was… talking to all the prospective candidates, and we felt we [the station] could easily be charged with favoring one candidate, or ignoring something to overcompensate, or saying something negative about another candidate.” Because Dahlkemper no longer maintained a façade of neutrality in her personal life, it not only jeopardized the credibility of her work, but also the credibility of the entire station she worked for. Even though Dahlkemper didn’t breach the code of ethics necessarily, she was ultimately not able to keep her job because it could appear as if she has a conflict of interest. According to Black, Steele and Barney, “’Appearance can undermine your credibility,’ said Griffin. ‘We rely on public perception that we don’t have anything more to do than report the truth.’” Although the station considered reassigning Dahlkemper and sought out alternative resolutions to this ethical dilemma, Dahlhemper resigned because the inherent conflict of interest was too big to be ignored.

For journalists that don’t write for traditional publication, appearing unbiased is not as important. Stay tuned for a blog post about how some journalists are moving away from appearing unbiased and moving toward advocacy journalism.

Truth and journalism

Truth lies at the heart of journalism, but the definition of truth has been fluid throughout history as journalists and other people gained a better understanding of what components are necessary to present information accurately. The conception of what is considered journalistic truth has evolved from presenting “fair and balanced” opinions in articles to presenting an “accurate” story through verification. Thus, thoroughly fact-checking articles to ensure the accuracy of stories is inherently jeopardized through modern society’s emphasis on instantaneous news production, the growing competition for a shrinking readership and editorial pressure to break stories.

For instance, the infamous 2000 election, in which the media incorrectly reported that Al Gore won the election, acts as a prime example of how accuracy can be compromised when news is reported without knowing all the facts and weighing the ethics. The Voter News Service released that Gore had won based off of exit polls in Florida, an important swing state, but voting was still open in Central Time and Pacific Standard Time. Suggs and Stone (2011) said, “Their [the media] rush to get information on air turned out to be a mistake that would cost the media a lot of credibility” (p. 260). The media compromised the validity of the election because many people chose not to go vote after the release of who won the election, according to a study done by Yale University. In this situation, journalists should have taken more time to consider the ethical dilemma before breaking this story because the decision to release this erroneous information about a presidential race that was too close to call influenced the presidential election. Suggs and Stone (2011) said, “Complete accuracy is needed before information is presented to the public. And that’s simply not the case here. News and truth need to be synonymous” (p. 262). Accurate information is useful to the public. Incorrect information is not. The public will always remember who got a story wrong, and the public will rarely remember who broke a story first.

Somewhat similarly in the “Killian Memo Scandal,” Mary Mapes received documents, which alleged that George W. Bush received special treatment during his time at the Texas Air National Guard. She verified the documents to the best of her ability, but she faced editorial pressure to release the story in a matter of days rather than weeks. She conceded, and the documents turned out to be falsified. This ultimately resulted in her getting fired along with many other people who worked with her on this story. Jackson and Coleman said (2008), “Mapes would later write, ‘I was uncomfortable with the script and, in retrospect, I should have done something I’d never done at work before. I should have said ‘No’” (p. 57).

In conclusion, fast-paced information distribution should be secondary to the need to verify the facts of a story and consider any ethical dilemmas that a story may present. The public turns to journalists for vital information about what is happening in the world. The crucial role that journalism plays in democratic societies is jeopardized when stories are released with major fact errors because the inaccurate information that is presented in articles causes the public to doubt the capabilities of journalists to present the truth.

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My take on social media as a communications major

The rise of social media has revolutionized communication giving anyone with Internet access the capability to create and curate content. As a journalism major with a specific concentration in online and public interest communication, social media platforms are integrated into the majority of my classes along with studying how people communicate through the Internet.

As a result, I am almost constantly behind a screen, writing, reading or editing. One of the major criticisms of our generation is that our obsession with our online appearance fueled by the capability to share anything and everything online contributes to a lack of “presentness” in life.

Another common criticism of the millennial generation is how their obsession with social media fuels their narcissism through the vapid gratification that social media offers via “likes.” Conversely, studies have shown that social media can also cause others (i.e. lonely people) anxiety as they are exposed to a social community of their peers, which they are excluded from.

Although I personally hold a certain reverence for social media because I have seen how it connects the world and how it can help change the world, I am aware of the limitations of these benefits.

For example, the ALS “ice bucket challenge” that was the most successful charitable challenge that went viral on social media in summer 2014 can act as an example of how social media can act as a double-edged sword.

Pros:

  • More than a million challenge videos were posted online, which increased awareness of this rare and dibilitating disease.
  • Over $50 million was raised, as compared to the $2.2 million that was raised last year.
  • The challenge was humorous and engaging, which actively encouraged more people to participate in it.

 

Cons:

  • As Arielle Pardes from Vice said: “It’s like a game of Would-You-Rather involving the entire internet where, appallingly, most Americans would rather dump ice water on their head than donate to charity.”
  • Narcissism ultimately fueled the participation.
  • Brian Carney asks if the “pretend suffering” of the ice bucket challenge is really the best way to help people suffering of ALS and encourage people to participate in charity.

 

This viral charitable challenge sparked a great deal of dialogue not only about ALS, but also a discussion about the ethics of whether it matters why people choose to give. Can something be considered bad when it does so much good?

This is parallel to my thoughts about social media.

Social media connects the world, but it does so at a cost. Social media has brought the rise of citizen journalism, immediate access to information, free advertising platform for businesses, etc.

Social media also causes the rapid dispersion of false information. There is a very crowded chatter on social media that is difficult to sift through at many times. Free advertising on social media is somewhat debatable due to the implementation of Facebook’s new algorithm, which makes it more difficult for Facebook pages to make it on people’s news feeds without many “likes” and the success of sponsored posts.

In addition, social media only connects parts of the world that have access to Wifi or don’t have government regulations on communication that restrict access to different platforms of social media.

As much as I am passionate about communications on the Internet and how much good it does, I think it is important to understand the inherent limitations of it. It can take away from my life at times. It can add to my life at times.

It’s all about balance and understanding.

 

 

How I chose my major

I chose my major the way most college students do—a whim.

One of my assignments for my Art History class was to attend a lecture at the Harn and then write a report about it. I loathed the concept of it because it would inconvenience me.  I would have to take a 30 minute bus ride and attend a lecture on one of the very few and far fall days in Gainesville, Florida.

It didn’t particularly surprise me when I enjoyed it. I use to dread anything that was forced upon me outside my own accord.

Almost instantly, I regretted sitting in the back. I couldn’t put my finger on it at the time, but there is something undeniably engaging about listening to someone else’s story.

I can remember wanting to ask questions, but a combination of fear and uncertainty kept me silent.

When I got home, I began writing only stopping to look at my notes.

I knew that I liked writing, or at least that I found writing to be profoundly preferable to math. But I had never told someone’s story. I had written papers. I had written book reports. But I hadn’t written a story yet.

I was enamored with the cathartic-like experience of telling someone else’s story.

So I decided to change my major to journalism without any real knowledge of the profession. I figured as a prior philosophy major, I didn’t have much to lose. (Except maybe the debilitating debt of law school.)

And journalism just so happened to be the perfect major for me. Now, I am not afraid to ask questions. I love that I am constantly learning. I even don’t mind the homework.

Some people find themselves in college through clubs or experiences. I found mine through my major. Changing my major opened up the floodgate of passion followed by opportunities for myself.