By Jennifer Peterson
Dr. Carrie Brown-Smith, a journalism professor from the University of Memphis, hosted a session called “Social Media Boot Camp” to kick off Meek Week.
“I think it is a really exciting time [to be a journalist] because we have all these tools like Twitter at our disposal,” she said.
Brown-Smith recommends Twitter as a tool for every journalist. She says that it is an easy, interactive instrument that allows people to both take the pulse about what people are talking about and to collectively participate in that discussion as well.
“There are literally over a hundred New York Times [reporters] who are using Twitter every day in their news process,” she said.
Social media has allowed many news companies to reach much larger audiences, something that Brown-Smith says was much more difficult to do in earlier times. It also allows companies to potentially reach more diverse audiences. For example, African Americans use the social media approximately twice as much as whites, according to Brown-Smith.
Brown-Smith said that the first and most obvious use of Twitter for a journalist is breaking news. She emphasized the fact that social media is changing the way news breaks and said that many of the most recent front page stories, such as the death of Whitney Houston, were first broken on Twitter. Because of an effort to distribute breaking news to as many audiences as possible, Brown-Smith said that some news companies are even re-tweeting their competitors.
But, Brown-Smith says, the fact-checking process should follow the same standards as traditional media – especially if you plan on retweeting someone else’s information.
“A tweet is no different than anything else. You gotta check it out,” she said.
Although the Twitter process is hard work, Brown-Smith doesn’t recommend giving up. She says that an online community is not built in a day or even a year, but that it is achievable.
“Keep plugging away,” she advises, “Consistency over time does drive you to have a following.”