The media landscape is significantly changing. Newspapers see their subscriptions drop, but online visitors are rising. Social media plays an important role in this movement. Not only the behaviour of newsreaders is changing, journalism itself is. I asked Titia Ketelaar and Arjen van der Horst, both correspondent in London for respectively Dutch news organizations NRC and NOS, about how they use social media for their work and how they see the future.
How do you use social media for your work as a journalist? Which platforms do you use?
Titia: I use Twitter to keep up to date about news events and certain opinion formers in the UK and Ireland, and to get ideas. For example, I created a list in Tweetdeck about the Olympic Games this year. Furthermore, I get in contact with people via Twitter. I also use LinkedIn in this case and it also is my business card and to check where certain people worked. I keep Facebook for personal use.
Arjen: I use Twitter the most, because it serves several purposes for me: I publicize the British news, I point out interesting articles or reports, answer questions from followers and announce my own work for radio and TV. I sometimes use Twitter to find certain people. Facebook is more for personal use, though it can be a convenient tool to find people. Finally, I keep my own Wordpress blog up to date: http://weblogs.nos.nl/londen
In what way do you manage your own social media presence on a daily basis?
Titia: In the morning I start with one or two tweets giving an overview of the newspapers. It is also dependent on what happens that day and what I do. When Kate and William got married my Twitter feed was integrated with all the other news on www.nrc.nl - the internet editors tend to use my feed as a sort of commentary on the British and Irish news.
Arjen: I use Twitter on a daily basis, though the intensity depends on the news and my own work. I have less time for Twitter when I am busy with research, montage or travelling. I twitter the most on calm days (then I have more time to read the newspapers and point out interesting articles) or during big news events (the London riots, News International phone hacking scandal). Considering Facebook, it comes and goes. I write a blog about five times a month.
As a journalist I understand you have to be extra careful to what you share online. What are the guidelines you use yourself considering your online/social media behaviour?
Titia: I tweet as a correspondent of NRC in London, so I rarely tweet about things that don’t happen in the UK or Ireland or about personal matters. The same holds for my business Facebook account – you won’t see any photos of a party there. Besides, I am careful considering competition sensitive matters – I will not tell what subjects I am working on at the moment. A piece has to appear in the newspaper first (that is what subscribers pay for). In that case it is not about news facts, but background articles.
Arjen: I am free to put online what I want, although de NOS does talk about what is appropriate and what isn’t. NOS is a neutral organization and you have to be aware of that; you think twice before making a political statement. Opinion isn’t the main task of a correspondent, we are there to tell the stories and make reports.
Will journalists eventually become fact checkers because news breaks out on social media channels such as Twitter so quickly, but is also often not true (hoaxes)?
Titia: I always check, or I know the source. That is the task of a journalist – it is important that someone can separate the wheat from the chaff, especially because of the enormous amount of information that can be found online.
Arjen: Not only fact checkers, but also lock keepers. Sometimes it is import to NOT publicize certain messages. Take for example all the messages about colonel Gaddafi: it was said that he was arrested/hurt/dead/escaped and many colleagues were publicizing these messages; sometimes with the statement “this has been confirmed”. You have to think about what you tweet. Twitter is a nice medium, but it also spreads rumours, because fact checking isn’t always done. That is indeed a task for journalists.
How do you see your future as a journalist considering more people read online and the rise of social media platforms? Do you think your daily activities will change as a journalist in the future?
Titia: My daily activities already changed! Newsgathering and gathering sources changed immensely since I started in 1994 as a trainee journalist (I had coins with me to use the telephone as there was no laptop or iPhone and the internet was still in its development phase). However, the task of a journalist and journalism is getting more important. Look at what is happening in Homs: it may break through Twitter, but you still need traditional journalists to know the why, how and what is going to happen now. That is also why people still read newspapers, maybe not actual paper ones, but the sales of iPhone apps and digital editions of NRC are rising. And don’t forget that only 9 per cent of the world uses Twitter. In many parts of the world BBC World Service radio still remains the main news source.
Arjen: Newspapers and magazines will eventually cease to exist, although certain specialised newspapers (e.g. The Economist, Financial Times) may last. If there is a niche, there is a market. But everything, from written articles to video and audio, is moving towards online publicizing, and social media is becoming more important as well.
It is hard to say how the media landscape will look in the future, but it will definitely have an impact on our jobs. However, audio-visual and online media are not completely developed yet, especially if you compare it to the written media. Radio, TV and online are more news broadcasters than actual news creators. Take a look at everything that is published on Twitter: usually the news source is a regular newspaper or a journalist. Checking and searching takes time. How many times do Twitter users pick up the phone to check a news message that they spread?
It is disturbing that budgets of all media are cut down. Research journalism costs money. The possibility lies in creating revenue for online media. News consumers are used to getting the news online for free. The paper version of the Guardian is losing readers, but three million people visit their website every day. If every online visitor would pay a few pennies, it would help the Guardian out of their financial problems. We live in an information era. It is like to be unable to find a job as a stonemason in the Stone Age. We have to find a solution for that; it is however unclear what that will be.
- Thanks to Titia Ketelaar and Arjen van der Horst for their contribution.