Has Social Media Reshaped Journalism?

Introduction

The affordances of new media have changed the way how news and public issues are produced and distributed. With the ability to search and share information on social media, individuals who are not journalism professionals can now gather and distribute newsworthy information as well as comments through different social media platforms, and they can also form networked identities when participating in the production of media content. Moreover, the cultivation of ‘participatory culture’ also facilitates the rise of crowdsourcing projects, and crowdfunding journalism is an outstanding example that demonstrates how professional journalism shifts into citizen journalism. Therefore, opportunities and challenges occur in journalism industry. Faced with techno-social hybridity, journalism professionals have changed their roles in terms of journalism practice. This case study will demonstrate how social media reshape professional journalism by focusing three examples and analyzing the affordances of social media platforms, networked publics, and convergence happening in journalism industry.

Journalism in techno-social hybridity

Cassidy (2017a) suggested that new media is a middle ground between technological determinism and over-emphasis on human agency. By middle ground, he meant users emergently appropriate technological affordances provided by social media. Technological affordances, or the capabilities enable us to extend our participation in producing media content, and disseminating information to the public. For instance, a shaky picture taken by someone in the crowd could be a significant and wide-spread news source from breaking news. Robert Hernandez, a web journalist, searched and watched a shaky video taken by someone in the crowd holding a cell phone, and uploaded to YouTube. It shows a protester who got shot and killed in the Bahrain protests. This example illustrates that individuals are empowered by the technological affordances of new media to play an important role in producing news content.

People "on the ground" capture the news with cell phones and broadcast via YouTube. Image sourced from: http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/how-social-media-helps-journalists-break-news/

Another example of ABC’s outstanding television discussion program Q&A would demonstrate how journalism profession takes advantage of social media affordance in order to extend the capacity of on-screen content. Commenced in 2008, Q&A saw journalists, politicians, and public figures answering and discussing political questions asked by citizens. In 2010, it started to present moderated Twitter feeds on screen. This is an innovative idea that converged social media and traditional media. According to Flew (2014, 6), the traditional distinctions between media professionals and audiences are becoming blurred, because the rise of user-created content leads to a growing convergence of media producers and consumers. The introduction of on-screen tweet feed, lowers the barriers for audiences to express their opinions about the topics, as well as strengthens the support for them to share comments with others and feel connected (Cassidy, 2017b). What’s more, Tweets can be recorded, endless duplicated and searched, so they are actually content shared by networked publics. (Boyd, 2008). As audiences are engaging with the program by tweeting or reposting opinions relevant to the same topics, they engage with the participation shaped by networked publics’ affordances. In 2014, the program is reaching 21,000 tweets per episode on average, a rather rapid increase in viewer response to the integration of Twitter. This exemplifies that journalism professionals who want to extend the capacity of content should make full use of new media affordances to empower media audiences to voice and share their opinions with networked publics.

Crowdsourcing journalism

Crowdfunding has provided a new resolution for journalism in the digital era. Facilitated by social networked dynamics, the main property of crowdfunding is harnessing collective resources to solve problems or produce things (Cassidy, 2017c). Technology affordances not only enables individuals to share ideas among different platforms, but also provides them with the opportunities to carry out those ideas in real-life projects. Kickstarter, a crowdfunding platform for diverse creative projects, is a new way of venture financing for many individuals who need to engage public financial support. Journalism is also a popular genre. According to Pew Research center, from 2009 to 2015, 658 journalism-related projects proposed on Kickstarter received full – or more than full – funding, to the tune of nearly $6.3 million. Pew report also suggests that media organizations get crowdfunding, but individuals produce largest share of funded journalism projects. Moreover, media outlets comprise nearly a quarter of all journalism projects on Kickstarter, whereas individuals account for 43 percent.

Percentage of funded journalism projects produced by for types of founders on Kickstarter. Image sourced form: http://www.journalism.org/2016/01/20/crowdfunded-journalism/pj_2016-01-20_kickstarter_0-03/

Admittedly, the success of a project is determined by its topic, but the engagement with target audiences and the characteristic of founder also affect the achievement of the goal. Thus, individual founders are required to do innovative self-marketing and create fandom for their projects. This is an extension of networked identities that individuals have formed on social media. Besides, I would argue that the increase of individual journalism projects is facilitated by the blurring of work and play as well as waged and un-waged labor(Cassidy, 2017d). For individuals, or prousers (Bruns, 2008) of new media, the motivation of raising a journalism project is not about journalism profession, but building up social networked identities and connecting to a specific public issue or current affair that appeal to them.

Is journalism dead?

In recent years, the discussion about whether citizen journalism on new media platforms threaten professional journalism has drawn people’s attention. My answer to the above question is journalism will never die. Although the affordances of new media empower users to record and disseminate information, the demands for professional journalism content and authorized information increase. Traditional media organizations still retain trust from the public, even though news sources provided by citizen via new media tools are trending on a larger scale. In addition, journalism practitioners have taken advantages of convergence happening in media practice to extend the capacity of content on traditional platforms like television. However, within the new environment shaped by networked publics’ affordances, new media has challenged traditional journalism by changing social context (Cassidy, 2017e). For instance, different memes of Donald Trump have been widely spread on new media platforms since the president election commenced. Those memes are created via images of Trump in a political context, but they regain vernacular, entertaining, and diverse meanings in a new media context.

Conclusion

Technological affordances of new media have offered new ways of producing, distributing and understanding news. The major trend of journalism profession in techno-social hybridity is the decentralization of power, context, and social network, as audiences are empowered to record, share and comment. Convergence happening in media practice and the raise of crowdsourcing platforms are indicative of the cultivation of participatory culture. Besides, participation is shaped by the affordances of networked publics. Although these new dynamics are likely to threaten professional journalism, I would assert that journalism in the digital era is supplemented by the affordances of new media, and more possibilities of journalism profession emerge. Overall, this case study aims to draw a bigger picture of journalism practice reshaped by social media in techno-social hybridity, and the leading roles in this picture are the reconceptualised audiences (Cassidy, 2017f).

Reference

Boyd, Danah. 2011. “Social Network Sites as Networked Publics-Affordances, Dynamics, and Implications.” In A Networked Self – Identity, Community, and Culture on Social Networked Sites, edited by Zizi Papacharissi, 39-58. New York: Routledge.

Bruns, Axel. 2008. “Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life, and beyond: from production to produsage.” In KCB101book of readings. Brisbane: Queensland University of Technology.

Cassidy, Elija. 2017a. “KCB206 Social media, self and society: Week 1 lectorial notes.” Assessed April 2, 2017. https://blackboard.qut.edu.au/webapps/blackboard/content/listContent.jsp?course_id=_133419_1&content_id=_6696662_1

Cassidy, Elija. 2017b. “KCB206 Social media, self and society: Week 2 lectorial notes.” Assessed April 2, 2017. https://blackboard.qut.edu.au/webapps/blackboard/content/listContent.jsp?course_id=_133419_1&content_id=_6696662_1

Cassidy, Elija. 2017c. “KCB206 Social media, self and society: Week 4 lectorial notes.” Assessed April 2, 2017. https://blackboard.qut.edu.au/webapps/blackboard/content/listContent.jsp?course_id=_133419_1&content_id=_6696662_1

Cassidy, Elija. 2017d. “KCB206 Social media, self and society: Week 4 lectorial notes.” Assessed April 2, 2017. https://blackboard.qut.edu.au/webapps/blackboard/content/listContent.jsp?course_id=_133419_1&content_id=_6696662_1

Cassidy, Elija. 2017e. “KCB206 Social media, self and society: Week 5 lectorial notes.” Assessed April 2, 2017. https://blackboard.qut.edu.au/webapps/blackboard/content/listContent.jsp?course_id=_133419_1&content_id=_6696662_1

Cassidy, Elija. 2017f. “KCB206 Social media, self and society: Week 3 lectorial notes.” Assessed April 2, 2017. https://blackboard.qut.edu.au/webapps/blackboard/content/listContent.jsp?course_id=_133419_1&content_id=_6696662_1

Flew, Terry. 2014. “ Introduction to New Media.” In KCB206 book of readings. Brisbane: Queensland University of Technology.

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