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A need for cultural change in newsrooms when tackling social media

A need for cultural change in newsrooms when tackling social media

Last week the BBC's London-based Social Media Summit focused on the relationship between the mainstream media and social media.

Different panels discussed how the mainstream media has engaged with social media, how newsrooms are adapting to new technological changes, what social media can offer to traditional journalism in terms of access to sources, gathering information and content curation and verification and how traditional outlets should change their mindsets.

One of these panels focused on cultural changes happening in newsrooms; they were discussed with Peter Horrocks of the BBC Global News, Raju Narisetti, editor-in-chief of the Washington Post and Meg Pickard, head of digital engagement at the Guardian.

You can find the video of the panel here.

What emerged from the conference is that it is no longer sufficient for mainstream media to be merely familiar with social media or to just introduce a kind of social media interaction in the traditional news process. There is a need for a complete culture change.

Social media culture has to be fully understood, as a social media strategy has to be fully integrated in the news cycle, providing the same trustworthy standards of traditional news distributors.

The subject has attracted much attention and social media guidelines are flourishing.

Journalists need to make the most out of social media starting for example with using Twitter. Peter Horrocks recalled at this end when last year he told the BBC journalists "Tweet or be sacked" to underlined that the use of social media at the BBC was no more a question of a personal discretion.

As people contacted him afterwards asking if he was misquoted, he explained that he wasn't saying that journalists were obliged to tweet, but rather that nowadays everyone needs to understand social media.

With the aim of encouraging journalists to expand their boundaries and change with the times, the BBC has started to supply reporters with smartphones.

Going in this direction, Meg Pickard said that at very least all journalism students should be using Twitter.

As Cory Bergman reported on Lost Remote, social media evolve so fast that media outlets have to continuously adapt their social media strategy. Liz Heron, social media editor at the New York Times, explained at the summit how the paper's strategy is evolving. The New York Times has 1,350,000 fans on Facebook.

"We tell our journalists and encourage them to not just think about it as distribution and promotion," she said. "In fact, if you just think about it only as distribution, you're not getting what you can out of social media, the most that you can, which is really about user interaction, engagement and news gathering."

As the article reported, Heron said reporters who want to create social media accounts are asked first to delineate a strategy for interacting with users, pointing out Nicholas Kristof's Facebook page and Brian Stelter's Twitter account as successful examples of it.

Heron added the social media team is getting more involved in "high impact" projects in the newsroom - the article explained - like the Oscars Facebook Ballot. "We want to do a lot more projects where we build platforms around our journalism," she said. "We really want to start focusing on Facebook more," adding that Twitter tends to be more popular with journalists but doesn't have the reach of Facebook.

Sources: BBC, Lost Remote, YouTube



Federica Cherubini


2011-05-23 14:38

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