Importance of integrating social media and Citizen Journalism into reporting
March 5, 2011, 6:40 pm
"If newspapers are to be relevant in today’s context of Citizen Journalism, they should learn to integrate with new platforms of social media such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube."
These observations were made by senior British Journalist Claire Fry who works for a UK-based regional newspaper – Worcester News at a recent presentation at the Auditorium of the Sri Lanka Press Institute (SLPI). Ms. Fry is part of a five-member Group Study Exchange Team visiting Sri Lanka from Rotary District 1100 UK.
In his introductory address, SLPI CEO, Imran Furkan said that the power of social media was evident in the people power movements that have led to the downfall of leaders in some African and Middle East countries such as Tunisia, Egypt and Libya in the recent past. The vetting process of information that comes through social networking goes through various personnel in the chain of custody like friends and family and friends of friends that make it trustworthy to many.
He also pointed out the comments that were made when Time Magazine’s "Person of the Year 2010" Award was made to Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg that it was premature to award the honour to him was evidently wrong because of the immense impact Facebook and other social media has had on world events in recent times.
Mr. Furkan went on to add that at the Sri Lanka College of Journalism (SLCJ), which is administered by SLPI, a key theme for 2011 and beyond will be the education of journalists in Social Media and how to incorporate them in to existing reporting platforms. He mentioned that in line with modern social media training needs, they will be conducting a mid career course in the second week of April for middle-level and senior journalists on New Media and Multi Platform Publications.
Speaking to an attentive audience of journalists and other guests, Ms. Fry said, Social Media and Citizen’s Journalism is all about feeding news in any form and the use of modern technology to enhance or add value to stories.
While Social Media can break the story, newspapers can be used to effectively expand on the news item. She stressed the importance of professional training for journalists once they have secured a degree and have selected journalism as a profession. In the UK, Ms. Fry said if a person was to practice journalism by working for a newspaper he or she had to possess a certificate from the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ). They also should be able to work with shorthand since voice recorders are not encouraged at Government meetings and legal proceedings.
In an interactive question and answer session on copyright and privacy issues, verification of stories, airing of violent scenes, and the new technology international journalists now use, Ms. Fry said with regard to copyright if a person of interest has left their security settings in their social networking page open (to all) then the information in terms of photographs and text is fair game and open for publication. She remarked that breaking news has no copyright; it all depends on who gets in first and with today’s citizen journalism "anything goes". She also stressed the importance of a journalist, writing stories with the correct balance and integrity.
The journalist must verify the authenticity of the story when following up breaking News. Airing of violent scenes, though somewhat controversial, is however in the interest of the public and as a source of information such scenes have to be shown in order to bring about greater public awareness as to the seriousness of the story.
Commenting on the increasingly dual role reporters play in both writing the text for print version of newspapers and shooting video for the newspaper websites she stated that it is an inevitable trend and while newspaper photographers might fear job losses she as a person does not resent the dual role she has to play.
She went on to add that the Web manager/editor was head of the web version of a newspaper while the regular editor was the head of the print edition and while both were different people there was little conflict since both were located in close proximity to one another in her newspapers and they both complemented each other’s work.
The presenter Claire Fry obtained a degree in English Literature at the University of Roehampton in London, before moving back to her home county, Worcester. She started working as a Feature writer in a newspaper group called Northcliffe. She wrote for a series of four weekly local papers in Herefordshire, Shropshire and Wales. She trained with the National College of Training Journalists (NCTJ), which is a nationally recognized qualification. Claire then moved to a regional weekly newspaper called the Redditch Advertiser and Alcester Chronicle, part of the Newsquest/Garnett newspaper company where she started her training to become a senior reporter.
After a year she moved onto the Worcester News, a daily regional newspaper, part of the same newspaper group. Worcester News won Midlands Newspaper of the year for its reporting, and Claire was Highly Commended in the Newsquest media awards - a UK national award scheme two years ago.
On her return to the UK in March, she will start working for a newspaper group called the Express and Star, the country’s largest regional newspaper, where she will be working as a News Reporter.