Breaking news on social media

It took a while until CNN and other traditional news media were ready to report the death of Osama bin Laden. While the news was already widely discussed on social media networks like Twitter, news organizations were still verifying the facts. Especially Twitter feeds were filled with rumors. inVocus editor-in-chief Katrina Mendolera interviewed me on the incident and the question whether news organizations should break news on social media platforms.

The following is an excerpt from Mendolera’s article “The art of breaking news on social media.”

In Marcus Messner’s opinion, creating guidelines that state against specifically breaking news over social media is the wrong way to go. An assistant professor teaching social media, multimedia journalism and global communications at Virginia Commonwealth University, Messner noted that while standards need to be upheld, news can still be broken efficiently through social media. “You don’t always have to report the entire story to be published on social media, but you have to report the facts,” he said. “So the storytelling is different.”

News organizations like the Huffington Post and Politico are doing a good job of breaking news on social media that has been verified and sourced beforehand, he noted. CNN also set a standard when the news of Osama bin Laden was first announced. Although tweets abounded in the Twitter spectrum, CNN didn’t break the news until it had confirmed the facts. “I think [social media] puts news organizations in a position under immense pressure to break the news because people are already talking about it,” Messner said. “Regular citizens and politicians can start talking, but news organizations can just not do that. They would put their credibility on the line if they got a story like this wrong.” Despite the downfalls that can be associated with breaking news over social media, Messner said that as soon as the facts are confirmed outlets need to be involved in social media.

And it’s not only news organizations that need to be onboard, but the journalists as well. “I think social media channels are actually a great way of branding for news organizations and personal branding for reporters,” he said. But the conversation happens with the journalists, he noted. “If you use it as a one-way channel and don’t answer to your audience, then what’s the point? I think the reporters that have the most followers and fans are the ones that truly engage with their audience.”

The complete article can be read here.

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