Social media’s impact on news

By Maudy Veltema

Photo multi media

As a result of the digital revolution in relation to the media, online news is now the successor of print press journalism and broadcast journalism. Social media is the latest tool used in online news. These days there are hardly any radio stations, TV channels or newspaper without a social media page to distribute news to the audience. News and the way news is distributed are strongly affected by social media. What follows is an overview of the effects of these developments out and what they mean for both journalists and public.

Timeline of journalism formats

From the most traditional form of journalism originating from the newspaper to its newest format of online news, there have been processes of adaptation each time a new format was introduced. Lee Duffield is an Australian journalist with worldwide experience and a journalism lecturer at the Queensland University of technology, who has witnessed the revolution of television, online news and social media. He talks about how all these processes evolved and what kind of challenges they brought.

Positive and negative effects of social media’s involvement in news

In the present media environment, broadcast channels and print press newspapers and magazines are most likely to have their own online news websites, which are often connected to social media pages. On these social media pages, the channel or newspaper can post links to their own website, where the online articles can be found. A major departure from all traditional forms of journalism is that in online news there is the ability to update and adjust any published work. In the world of social media, there is a certain pressure to be the first one to publish something newsworthy. Because of the fast pace in which these social media post their news, journalists are more and more likely to not check their work before they publish it. However the effects of this are mitigated by possibility to update and adjust published work.

In 2014 ING bank conducted a survey about how social media changed the work of both journalists and PR professionals. Amongst other things, the survey gave insights into how trustworthy these professionals find social media, to what extend the public’s opinion is used in publishing news and whether journalists publish as soon as possible with the possibility to correct and amend their articles later if necessary.

In the following chart it is made clear that almost half of the journalists in question do this for most of their publications, only near a quarter do this for half of their publications. Just over a fifth does it for the minority of their publications, whilst exactly fifth of the journalist say they never do this(1).

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The same survey stated that 60% of the journalists in question said that they feel less bound to stick to the rules of journalism in online news than they would in traditional forms of journalism. The difficulty matching the traditional rules of journalism with the new media approach is that on social media, personal opinions are being frequently shared, while conventional journalists have to be objective and simply be the reporter of news facts and news events.

The ING bank’s survey’ s prediction for the future is that the fact checking will reduce, while the crowd checking will increase. This means that the importance of the public’s opinion will intensify.

Social networking for journalists

It has always been essential for a journalist to network, but with the digital revolution coming through in journalism, it has become essential to adapt to the new Internet environment and keep and expand an online network.

In the understanding of journalist Charlie Beckett, networked journalists don’t just adjust to reporting in response to feedback from colleagues and consumers; they also follow up stories and understand the coverage of an event or issue within a wider context (2).

In relation to the revolution of online news, a networked journalist has to become comfortable with the idea of social networking and they will have to become a social networker themselves. Since many newspapers and TV channels have social media linked to their websites, the majority of journalists are on social network websites like Twitter and Facebook these days. In a 2013 global digital journalism study, Oriella PR Network surveyed journalists from 14 countries about the role of digital media in newsrooms and newsgathering. In this survey it was found that more than half the journalists use Twitter and a third of the questioned journalists even have their own blog. One of the other findings was that over half of the questioned journalists use social media to gather news stories, if the sources are considered trustable (3).

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On social media a lot of journalistic elements meet. A journalist can not only gather news stories, but also becomes a publisher and maintains and expands a big network. A journalist on social media also becomes better reachable for the public. This resolves the old media problem of unresponsive and unreachable journalists. In his blog on, American journalist and professor Jeff Jarvis wrote that he believes that the more that journalists behave like citizens, the stronger their journalism will be. ‘’In networked journalism, the public can get involved in a story before it is reported, contributing facts, questions and suggestions. The journalist can rely on the public to help report the story, we’ll see more and more of that, I trust,’’ he wrote (4).

Social media’s role in breaking news

When news is breaking, there is a rivalry amongst journalists of different news institutions to get the scoop and be the first one to bring the story to the public. Because nowadays everyone possesses smartphones connected to social media, journalists face competition from so called ’citizen journalists’. Eyewitnesses, the public and official sources can now share the news before the mainstream news institutions have put the official story out.

In 2012 American educational website did research on how social media is replacing traditional journalism as a news source. They found that over half of the American people have learned about breaking news via social media rather than official news sources (5).

Fast though, doesn’t always mean factual. Even when social media is used as a news source, it is important to double-check facts with a trusted news source, both as a news institution and a newsreader.

The same piece of research by showed that almost half of the people who heard breaking news through social media, later discovered that this news turned out to be false.

Apart from the fast versus factual issue, citizen journalists who gather and attempt to distribute news in breaking news situations, don’t have the ability to broadcast them to the general public like news institutions do. Even though their social media posts can reach anyone on the internet, in reality only few can find them in all the ongoing fuzz on social media during one of these breaking news situations .Let alone whether people would trust the citizen journalist. The whole process of checking facts and putting a story together would take more than clicking on the retweet button (6).

Future perspectives of social media’s role in journalism

The digitalisation of news and news on social media is most likely to intensify in the near future. Social media trends that have developed as a result of this will continue to develop and renew themselves.

 On digital innovation website , journalist Vadim Lavrusik wrote about the future of social media in journalism. In relation to this he made a list of ongoing trends in journalism which are expected to only increase in the future. The most important ones are listed below (7).

More collaborative reporting, with an increase in the alignment between the source and the content producer, resulting in more journalism happening through collaborative reporting

Journalists being community managers, The ending of the ‘top of the mountain journalists’ resulting in news becoming more of an online conversation where the journalist has to listen as much to the community as they do to him.

The increasing social beat, where a journalist’s beat of coverage and contacts will and in many cases already does include the social web. Here, readers are pointed to the news and the community shares its own news.

The social network as the new editor, where the social networks of the reader are helping him decide what he needs to read instead of only journalists doing that job.

News organisations looking beyond Twitter and Facebook, looking to take advantage of other platforms and other online communities.

More newsrooms having a full time social media department, figuring out the best way to work with the online community.



Closing words from an aspiring news reporter

Used sources


Find the actual report in Dutch here:
(Accessed May 18 2015)

2. Beckett, Charlie. 2008. ‘’Supermedia: saving journalism so it can save the world.’’ Chapter 2: ‘’Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No! It’s superMedia!’’: Networked Journalism. Blackwell Publishing. Chichester.

(Accessed May 20 2015)

(Accessed May 20 2015)

(Accessed May 20 2015)

(Accessed May 20 2015)

(Accessed May 25 2015)


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