The Era of Instant Journalism

As smart phones, Twitter, Facebook, and a wide array of social media sites and tools find their way into nearly every household across the globe, it seems as though anyone has the instruments to become the next groundbreaking journalist.  News is dispersed at a rate never experienced before as tweets and posts triumph over printed newspapers, beating them to the punch without having to wait for the printing process.

As events unfold, Twitter users are able to pass along information to their hundreds, sometimes even thousands of followers, making it the perfect platform for news dissemination.  Similarly with Facebook, people have used the site to find others with similar interests to build a network of activists, spreading their story and mission.

It was on Twitter that news first broke of the US Airways plane that crashed into the Hudson River after hitting a flock of geese following take off from New York’s LaGuardia Airport in 2009.   The Egyptian uprising of 2011 originated on Facebook, which led to long time president Hosni Mubarak turning over power to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.  And in 2011, the U.S. raid on Osama bin Laden was first reported on Twitter by an unknowing IT consultant in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

We are on the forefront of a groundbreaking era for the profession and practice of news distribution, and even seasoned reporters are embracing new technologies in their reporting.   Former Middle East correspondent for Time magazine turned Cairo bureau chief for The Washington Post, Abigail Hauslohner, used Twitter to update her followers during the Gaza conflict last November.  While buildings around hers were being bombed, Hauslohner used Twitter because it was her only reporting tool at the time.

Andy Carvin, NPR strategist, might not be using Twitter in life or death moments, but he sees the value in the social media tool for crowd sourcing opportunities.  He uses his followers as sources for information, and expects them to call him out when he has reported wrong information.

“It’s a newsroom,” said Carvin in an interview with Gigaom.com.  “It’s where I’m trying to separate fact from fiction, interacting with people.”

Hauslohner and Carvin aren’t alone when it comes to their dependence on social media for reporting.  In their annual Digital Global Journalism Study, Oriella – a public relations network that works with technology driven brands, found that 55 percent of practicing journalists use social media platforms to source and verify information.

Since it’s inception nearly seven years ago, Twitter users have increased to over 500 million and Facebook recently hit one billion unique users having launched not even nine years ago.  As these social media sites continue to grow, it can only be expected that more journalists will find their way to reporting on the web.

About Sean Flynn

Sean Flynn is a recent graduate from City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. His work has appeared in The Buffalo News, Condé Nast Traveler, The New York Times 'Fort Greene Local', The Daily Meal, and FoxNews.com.
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