Editorial: The Value of Social Media for Emerging Journalists

This week's Editorial discusses the value of social media platforms for emerging journalists. - Photo via Pixabay.com

When we sat down to discuss editorial topics this week, we initially planned to dive into the negative effects of higher education institutions  – Rowan specifically –  increasingly integrating social media use into university curricula. However, we found that much of our research actually supported quite the opposite, proving social media use to be rather beneficial to a variety of college majors – most notably, journalism students. 

We live in a world where the connection is constant, attention is scattered and news becomes old in ten minutes. We live in the world of social media. 

For those everyday users, the hashtag-ers, double posters, like-and-scrollers – social media is a pastime. It’s a hobby, a creative outlet, a source of entertainment. But what if social media were more than an opportunity to keep up with our favorite relationships, celebrities or sports teams? What if it were part of our professional life, instead of an escape from it?

Well, for emerging journalists, it seems to be an unavoidable truth that social media is more than an app used for influencing and double-tapping; it’s an increasingly valuable tool – one that we may soon see as a standard facet of journalistic idea generation, crowdsourcing, building professional relationships within our communities and gaining/maintaining trust with our readers.

But how?

According to a 2018 study by the Amity Journal of Media & Communication studies on the journalistic use of social media, nearly 68% of journalist respondents recorded using Facebook for mostly professional reasons, while over 87% of respondents noted their use of Twitter to be mainly professional-based. But what does this actually mean for journalists on the ground? 

According to the same 2018 study, of those who claimed to use social media for professional purposes, nearly 97% noted that they use these platforms to find leads and sources for new stories, with nearly 78% using Facebook, 23% using Instagram and 38% using social news or other social bookmarking sites. 

Beyond sourcing story ideas, nearly 42% of respondents noted using social media to disseminate their own journalistic work, while about 10% have used it to contact expert interview subjects for upcoming stories.

However, it’s not only about simply using social media, but knowing how to use it in such a way that enhances your work as a journalist. Platforms like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook are exceptionally useful for not only finding an interest-piquing lead, but also for aiding in our ability to gather information and opinions in a short amount of time via online threads, polls, surveys, and Q&A features. 

These user-based social networking sites allow for instant, direct communication with our audience, allowing us to assess their needs, concerns and questions and produce work that better serves our communities and establishes a sense of trust between ourselves and our readership. 

What’s more, there are still a few less obvious, yet just as valuable, aspects of using these platforms. Social media serves as an online story archive for every post you share, providing a place for your professional work to be accessed by a simple search and press of a button. In an industry where time is always of the essence, it can’t be wasted searching through paper piles or filing cabinets to locate past works. 

Social media also provides instantaneous opportunities for exposure, given that millions of eyes can reach a story overnight. It’s an opportunity to not only display your work and reach communities in need, but to build your credibility and online presence as a notable journalist. 

Not to mention, it’s a great networking resource – as obvious as that may sound – that can connect you with others in the industry who can act as a further resource for your reporting, provide story inspiration or simply keep you in the know with what other industry experts are doing and doing well. 

Luckily, it looks like many journalists are already beginning to see the value of implementing social media use into their professional lives. 

According to a 2021 study of over 2,400 journalists conducted by Muck Rack, in collaboration with a variety of other associations, 76% of respondents voted Twitter as the most valuable platform for journalists, with over 37% of reporters recording that they would like to increase their use of the platform in the near future. In addition, over 23% voted LinkedIn as the most professionally-valuable platform, with about 28% planning to spend more time on the platform moving forward. 

As recognition of the value of these platforms continues to grow, it’s important that the opportunities they provide continue to be taken advantage of as the industry continues to shift and change. 

Having an account is just the beginning. To all the emerging journalists looking to navigate this ever-evolving world of media, take advantage of the platforms put in front of you. Start building a community online, asking questions, engaging and networking. 

However, we also want to recognize that it’s a two-way street. The local community often serves as the eyes and ears that journalists rely on for leads and other information, so we encourage the Rowan community to reach out to The Whit via Instagram, Twitter or email (the.whit.rowan@gmail.com) with story ideas or special topics that need coverage.  

Social media is more than an app or two; it’s a tool. You just need to learn how to use it. 

For comments/questions about this story, tweet @TheWhitOnline or email Thewhitopinion23@gmail.com.