Meet-ups and Mash-ups

New Social Media Tools that Work Together

At a conference in Boston this week, I met Jason Boucher, the Social Media Manager at the University of New Hampshire, who informed me of some new media tools that might be helpful for me to reach my audience. Boucher said that one way he engages with students and alumni is to ask questions through social networks. A poll or a fill-in-the-blank post can generate many responses. To try this out I set up a quick Facebook poll using a widget—an embedded app—to ask my friends about the 2016 presidential debates that they have watched. This was easy to set up and generated info graphics illustrating the data for me to analyze. The free Polls for Facebook service provides only a maximum of 40 responses. Paid plans for unlimited response data currently range from $96 to $336 per year (“Polls,” n.d.).

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Debate poll on Facebook timeline

In a 24-hour period my poll had 33 visitors, with 25 participants. Producing quick polls not only engage my audience, but also provide me with useful data about them. For instance, 80% responded to the poll on a mobile device, while only 20% used a desktop computer. The gender distribution of respondents was 74% female and 26% male.

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Results of debate poll

Another way to collect data is through a “mash-up” or aggregated social media tool that allows users to manage multiple social media accounts. Analytical data is available and can help refine media strategies. Boucher pointed out that an app, such as Hootsuite, is a powerful solution because combines the useful analytics with the effective functionality of a secure collaborative platform that allows a social media team to track and manage many channels—including Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Instagram, and WordPress blogs—simultaneously from one place. One benefit of this approach is that a user can determine, through data analysis, the most effective time to post. If a user learns that there are more likes and shares with their audience at 10 p.m., rather than noon, they can create future messages on Hootsuite and schedule them to post at 10 p.m. for the greatest reach.

This promotional video gives an overview of how Hootsuite (2014) works:

I trialed the free version of Hootsuite and can see that the paid plans, which start at about $120 per year, have much more to offer in terms of the quantity of accounts and data reports included (“Hootsuite,” n.d.), which is needed for an accurate evaluation. I have to admit that I was a little overwhelmed by Hootsuite when I tested it out for myself, and I recommend that you take advantage of the numerous Hootsuite tutorials and webinars when you get started.

It is important to continue to learn all we can about how technology is changing so that we remain to be effective in our media-driven culture. I have now connected with Boucher through LinkedIn and have subscribed to his RSS feed to read more about social media on his blog posts found on The Huffington Post site (“HuffingtonPost,” n.d.). An old-fashioned conference session followed by a breakfast discussion led me to discover new tools that will help reshape how I incorporate improving technology into my media strategies.

References

Hootsuite. (2014, August 21). Hootsuite—Empower Your Business with Social. [Video]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gHHQoNCFWuw

Hootsuite: Select your plan to get started. (n.d.). [Webpage]. Retrieved on January 30, 2016, from https://hootsuite.com/plans

HuffingtonPost blogger feed for Jason Boucher. (n.d.). [Webpage]. The Huffington Post. Retrieved on January 30, 2016, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/author/index.php?author=jason-boucher

Polls for Facebook: Affordable plans that start at just $8 per month. (n.d.). [Webpage]. Retrieved on January 29, 2016, from http://fbpoll.co/pricing/

 

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Community Journalism:

One door closes and another opens

The Internet has opened the doors to new ways of sharing information. Traditional news media have struggled to compete, and financial stresses have resulted in many changes, including staff reduction (Rogers, 2015). In the midst of this evolution, coverage of community news has dwindled. The same technology that has crippled mass media has enabled citizen journalism to fill this need—defined as “the reporting of news events by members of the public using the Internet to spread the information” (Technopedia, n.d.). Citizen contributors report on events and issues that are not being covered by mainstream media. Ordinary citizens provide news—many of them professional—and they are held to the same ethical standards as traditional journalists.

Dr. Lee Becker—a blogger and citizen journalist—demonstrates an excellent example of how citizens can apprise their communities with information that may not be publicized in any other way. A former journalist, Becker currently directs academic research projects on mass media. He has written two books and published numerous scholarly articles (Cox International Center, n.d.). Although he is not a practicing journalist, his background and dedication to the field make him more than qualified to generate the content for his local blog, Oconee County Observations (Becker, n.d.). As a citizen of his county since 1997 (Blogger, n.d.), Becker strives to inform the community of issues and events in an “accurate, fair and transparent” way—indicating that his stories adhere to the standards of the SPJ Code of Ethics (2014). In addition to news, he provides a forum for community members to express their thoughts and ideas. Becker is a responsible, quality blogger, and provides objective news reporting that empowers his community. But is blogging journalism? Andrews writes, “Calling a typical blogger a journalist is like calling anyone who takes a snapshot a photographer” (Andrews, 2003, pg. 63). However, good bloggers—those who verify facts, provide fair accounts, and follow ethical standards—are credible and can supplement the work of professional journalists (Rogers, 2015; Andrews, 2003). Research in this area has shown that community newsreaders value citizen journalists, as well as professional journalists, for local news (Nah & Chung, 2012).

In addition to citizens covering local issues, they can also partner with professional journalists to produce more meaningful stories. The Times-Picayune won two Pulitzer Prizes in 2006 for coverage of Hurricane Katrina (Carr, 2010). Gillmor (2005) credits this to the collaboration of professional journalists and non-professional citizen journalists. In its contest entry, the newspaper noted that they could not have done this work without them, “Our citizen reporters were as essential to this coverage as our staff and more essential than the standard human sources we have always relied on to tell us what is happening and why” (as cited in Gillmor, 2005, pg. 11). As conventional media continue to expand their resources with the use of citizen contributors, this alliance can strengthen the credibility and authenticity of both traditional and citizen journalism.

References

Andrews, P. (2003). Is blogging journalism? A blogger and journalist finds no easy answer, but he discovers connections. Nieman Reports, 57(3), 63. Retrieved from http://1e9svy22oh333mryr83l4s02.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/03fall.pdf

Becker, L. (n.d.). Oconee County Observations. [Website]. Retrieved from http://www.oconeecountyobservations.org/

Blogger: Lee Becker. Retrieved from https://www.blogger.com/profile/01090575389824190943

Carr, M. (2010, April 5). The Times-Picayune’s Hurricane Katrina coverage among top ten works of journalism the past decade. The Times-Picayune. Retrieved from http://www.nola.com/hurricane/index.ssf/2010/04/the_times-picayunes_katrina_co.html

Cox International Center: Dr. Lee B. Becker. Retrieved January 20, 2016 from http://www.grady.uga.edu/coxcenter/Administration/Lee_B_Becker/Lee_Director.php

Gillmor, D. (2005). Where citizens and journalists intersect. Nieman Reports, 59(4), 11.

Nah, S., & Chung, D. S. (2012). When citizens meet both professional and citizen journalists: Social trust, media credibility, and perceived journalistic roles among online community news readers. Journalism, 13(6), 714-730. doi:10.1177/1464884911431381.

Rogers, T. (2015, September 9). Can bloggers replace professional journalists? Retrieved from http://journalism.about.com/od/trends/a/bloggersjournalists.htm

SPJ Code of Ethics. (2014) [Poster]. Indianapolis, IN: Society of Professional Journalists. Retrieved from http://www.spj.org/pdf/spj-code-of-ethics-poster.pdf

Technopedia. (n.d.). Citizen journalism. Retrieved on January 22, 2016 from https://www.techopedia.com/definition/2386/citizen-journalism

Report Now, Apologize Later

In this day and age, the speed of reporting news is often valued more than the accuracy of the news. Technology has enabled news to travel faster than ever before, and competition from social media puts even more pressure on journalists to get their story out first. This has unfortunately resulted in grave errors.

NPR was the first to report the 2011 shooting of Arizona congresswoman, Gabrielle Giffords, but erroneously announced that she had been killed. They compounded this error confirming her death with an email to NPR subscribers, a tweet, and a blog (Shepard, 2011). Because of NPR’s reputation, other news outlets followed, repeating the false death report. Dick Meyer (2011), executive editor of NPR News, later apologized and noted, “in a situation so chaotic and changing so swiftly, we should have been more cautious” (para. 3). This was a lesson for all media outlets, reminding them of their responsibility described in the SPJ Code of Ethics (2014), which says that information must be verified and warns “neither speed nor format excuses inaccuracy” (p. 1).

Lessons were quickly forgotten. Two years later, the fast-breaking Boston bombing story challenged journalists once again, with unacceptable results. The New York Post featured two innocent young men and claimed that Federal investigators were trying to identify them (Willis, 2014). CNN, the Associated Press, and The Boston Globe mistakenly reported that an arrest was made, when nobody had been taken into custody. Publicized inaccuracies prompted the FBI’s statement to the media “to exercise caution and attempt to verify information through appropriate official channels before reporting” (Carter, 2013).

Without the integrity of ethical standards, journalism will fail to inform and empower the public and be reduced to mere entertainment. For the news media to provide accurate information, we must lower our expectations for speed and raise our standards for quality.

References

Carter, B. (2013, April 17). The F.B.I. criticizes the news media after several mistaken reports of an arrest. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/18/business/media/fbi-criticizes-false-reports-of-a-bombing-arrest.html?_r=1

Meyer, D. (2011, January 9). Editor’s note: On NPR’s Giffords coverage. NPR. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/2011/01/09/132785205/editors-note-on-nprs-giffords-coverage

Shepard, A. (2011, January 11). NPR’s Giffords mistake: Re-learning the lesson of checking sources. NPR. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/sections/ombudsman/2011/01/11/132812196/nprs-giffords-mistake-re-learning-the-lesson-of-checking-sources

SPJ Code of Ethics. (2014) [Poster]. Indianapolis, IN: Society of Professional Journalists. Retrieved from http://www.spj.org/pdf/spj-code-of-ethics-poster.pdf

Willis, O. (2014, October 1). [Blog]. NY Post settles lawsuit over infamous Boston bombing “Bag Men” cover. Retrieved from http://mediamatters.org/blog/2014/10/01/ny-post-settles-lawsuit-over-infamous-boston-bo/200974

Elvis Is Alive, and Other Claims

u-1-10runningforpresidentI remember, before the Internet, reading the outrageous tabloid headlines in the supermarket check out lane that made claims that Elvis is alive and there was scientific proof that Adam and Eve were really astronauts. We knew that photos were manipulated and that the stories were false. It was a form entertainment that was—and still is—supported by a niche group of readers. But a reader, who might have believed a story, could do no harm beyond telling a friend or two.

In the 21st century social media has become a powerful vehicle for individuals to share information exponentially with others. The ease of hitting the share button has led to the distribution of loads of misinformation. False claims and deceptive stories have gone from the supermarket check out lane into the news feeds of our personal devices. Sharers of information often do not take responsibility to do a credibility check for themselves and continue to spread this information to others.

A Credibility Check

With immigration being a popular issue being discussed by presidential candidates, my interest was sparked when I came across a Huffington Post article that countered common concerns. I wondered if the article was factual. Roque Planas (2015) makes the claim in his story, “One Of The Most Popular Anti-Immigrant Talking Points Just Keeps Falling Apart: Border walls never seemed so pointless,” that immigration from Mexico to the United States has decreased since 2008. He goes on to say that more Mexicans are actually leaving the U.S than immigrating. That’s not the message being sent during recent presidential debates. Surprised, I decided to take a closer look at the story.

I began my evaluation by confirming that the author is credible. Planas, who earned two master’s degrees and published academic research on Latin American Politics and U.S. Latino history, writes about Latinos and Latin America (Fellow Bios). He was recently appointed as a regional director of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (Medina, 2015) and has written numerous articles as Editor of the Latino Voices section of The Huffington Post (The Huffington Post: Roque Planas).

Planas provides links to his reputable sources, which support his story, and includes data from the Pew Research Center and the United States Border Patrol, which I reviewed. He also offers incite from a policy analyst. This credible information backs up his message. I trust the information provided in this story and felt comfortable sharing it with my friends and family on Facebook.

A Disclosure of Biases

In addition to news, The Huffington Post offers blogs from 1,600 unpaid bloggers (The Huffington Post, 2016). Bloggers may not be professionals, and it is important for readers to evaluate the credibility of the information before believing it as fact, and discussing it or sharing with others.

Early blogs had been compared to talk radio because this new technology gave individuals and groups an opinion platform outside of mainstream news (Johnson & Kaye, 2004). Glenn Reynolds described a blog as “a disclosure of the blogger’s biases” (Johnson & Kaye, 2004, para. 12). I have found blogs to be informative, but it’s important to remind ourselves that blog writers are not bound by the same principles as traditional journalists and do not necessarily present accurate, fair information. As more journalists and large media outlets have begun to blog, this is starting to change, and more credibility can be found in blogs—but it’s up to the consumer to ascertain if this information, as well as all other forms of news, can be trusted.

References

Elvis Is Alive. [web photo]. Retrieved from http://www.elvisthemagazine.com/numo/modules/newsletter/uploads/u.1.10RunningforPresident.jpg

Fellow bios. Retrieved January 4, 2016, from http://journalism.berkeley.edu/conf/2014/immigration/fellows/

Johnson, T. J., & Kaye, B. K. (2004). Wag the blog: How reliance on traditional media and the internet influence credibility perceptions of weblogs among blog users. Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly [H.W. Wilson – SSA], 81(3), 622-642.

Medina, M. (2015, November 17). NAHJ board appoints four regional directors. Retrieved on January 4, 2016, from http://nahj.org/nahj-board-appoints-four-regional-directors/

Planas, R. (2015). One of the most popular anti-immigrant talking points just keeps falling apart: Border walls never seemed so pointless. The Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/mexican-immigration-has-fallen_564e664ae4b0258edb30d73e

The Huffington Post. (2016). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved from http://www.britannica.com/topic/The-Huffington-Post

The Huffington Post: Roque Planas. Retrieved on January 4, 2016, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/roque-planas/