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Alfred Hermida, associate professor at University of British Columbia, gave the keynote address at the Journalism Education Association of Australia annual conference on December 3, 2013, in Mooloolaba, Queensland, Australia:
When facts are fluid: Emerging best practices to verify information on social media
More than half of the people coming to major news sites are using mobile devices. As journalists, we can’t ignore how much this changes the experience of our readers and viewers as well as the way we produce and distribute our work. What should we be thinking about in the midst of this change?
- Mobile: Coming to a desert, a village, a megacity near you, courtesy of Vodafone.
- See also Vodafone’s 2004 Vision of the Future.
- Mobile Growth 2013 Infographic
- Pew Internet: Mobile
- Wonderful list of mobile journalism resources from the Journalist’s Toolbox
In terms of journalism, the business model and the content are both changing (again):
5 reasons mobile will disrupt journalism like the Internet did a decade ago
Ways to combine local, mobile and social:
What ethical questions might you face while using social media as a professional journalist?
It’s important to recognize that even as a student journalist, once you publish online, you’re indistinguishable from a professional journalist: your words and works are held to the same ethical and legal standards as a professional journalist. Paul Bradshaw wrote about this recently: There’s no such thing as a ‘student journalist’. You are responsible for making sure your words are accurate, that you’ve used attribution, triple checked your facts and thought carefully about the ethical implications of your actions. You don’t have an editor standing over you when you tweet, post and comment.
As journalists spend more and more time in online social spaces, news organizations are crafting guidelines to help them calibrate their behavior. Some news organizations, like the Journal Register Company, give journalists wide leeway:
Dan Gillmor provides a little more guidance in his column in the Guardian:
1) Be human.
2) Be honorable.
3) Don’t embarrass us.
Thinking in advance about how to reason through various questions helps prepare you for on-the-job dilemmas:
- As a journalist, what can you ethically use in a news story that you glean from social networks? (See the Annie Le case)
- How do you verify information from social media before retweeting or using? (8 must-reads detail how to verify information in real-time, from social media, users) (Storify’s verification process)
- How do you avoid posting or tweeting inaccurate information? (How Tragedy Strikes When Journalism and Social Media Lack Ethics and Humanity)
- How do you correct an inaccuracy you’ve made in a tweet or post? (How should journalists handle incorrect tweets?)
- How do you respond when someone flames you on social media? (How do you respond to trolls? You don’t)
- How should you respond to hateful or racist comments posted on an article you’ve published?
- Is it ethical to allow anonymous comments on your work? Is it ethical to block anonymous comments?
- As an opinion writer, what do you owe people you write about personally? (I am Adam Lanza’s Mother)
- Can you share your own opinions about social issues on social media and still be a credible journalist?
For further reading:
Digital Media Ethics by Stephen J. A. Ward
We get the net — and society — we build, by Jeff Jarvis
As Copyblogger notes, the first step to getting people to read or watch what you’ve created is to write a great headline. If your headline doesn’t convince people to click, you’ve already lost them. This is your first interaction, the first moment of connection you have with a real live reader. So plan it as carefully as you would meeting someone cool on a blind date.
A headline is also key to making your content findable. People click, search and browse to find the content they are looking for. Being conscious about the keywords and phrases you use will help make your work more findable by search engines and by people. Study the keywords that people use to find your blog (Example: Viterbo, Italy blog)
Understanding your audience is key. Who are you writing to? Being specific to your audience will make your words more compelling than if written to a general, mass audience.
Another way to improve your headlines is to study them. Pay attention to what catches your eye and why. When you’re stuck, browse your favorite publications and look for ideas.
Some tips from Copyblogger’s e-book How to write magnetic headlines:
Write your headline first. Then write the content that fulfills the promise of the headline.
Listicles also promise very specific benefits to the reader: Buzzfeed is a master of this.
Think about why, or how, or what your post is about; distill its essence.
Some of the same principles can be applied to writing tweets and status updates. Writing accurate, inviting and informative “micro-content” takes skill and attention.