Archive for the ‘Social Media’ Category


The social balance

Social media platforms are in a delicate balance when it comes to platforms and engaging users. (Photo: Visual Content/Flickr via Creative Commons)

In the world of social media, content is king, and for journalists, social media has allowed for new ways to not just inform audiences, but also to engage them – creating new dimensions in the relationship between consumer and news organization.

Yet, while there are benefits for journalists and news organizations in this relationship with social media, there also are questions as to the right balance – informing users versus attracting them.

For social media platforms, it is the matter of designing the right platform to curate these stories, and the algorithm that distributes them to users. This includes the most notable, Facebook, who has rolled out updates on stories and photos in an attempt to compete with Snapchat, which has been a notable app because of its ability to engage younger audiences.

For news organizations, it is the matter of staying true to the goals at the core of journalism – informing, engaging and stimulating, while trying not to be too content heavy, leading to people unfollowing them on Twitter or unliking them on Facebook.

It all comes down to the question both social networks and news organizations are facing: “How much is too much?”

As the right way to handle this is debated and put forward, and strategies are tweaked, there must be the consideration of the people who will ultimately be at the receiving end of these strategies – the audience.

When writing about the changes for Facebook, Casey Newton, an editor for the technology news web site The Verge, included a section in his story on the social network’s introduction of Stories, and wider implications.

Among them is this:

“Where should you post your daily story now becomes a daily concern for a certain subset of youngish, social media-savvy people,” Newton wrote. “Facebook says stories belong everywhere that people are talking online, but what if the format is a fad? And what if forcing it on users across its entire family of app leads to a general fatigue with the idea? The company says each of its apps has a distinctive audience, and I believe it. But there’s also plenty of overlap. There’s a risk here that Facebook’s mania for stories will be interpreted as overkill by its users, and the feature will ultimately fade into the background. (This happened with live video!)”

In other words, on the whole, its the delicate balance that social platforms like Facebook have to play in order to attract users but also try not to put them off. Because of the importance of the content, be it a photo or video based story on Instagram, going live on Facebook, or creating a Moment on Twitter, social networks are trying to be distinct in how they can get the most audiences possible – for content can support a platform’s future.

A new platform or new feature brings the potential for more users on the social network, and the opportunity for news organizations to increase their audience on that particular platform. That opportunity also raises the question of prioritizing stories, and what platform gets to be the lucky recipient of the story.

But considerations must be made for why the story is there on that social network in the first place. Are you posting a story on Facebook because people really need to know about it, or are you putting up on Snapchat a customized dancing cat video merely designed to expand your reach and the number of eyeballs on the post?

It is important that audiences are informed and engaged by journalists about the world around them – it is at the core of SPJ’s Code of Ethics’ steadfast value – seek truth and report it. It is also important that social media plays a role in informing and engaging audiences, as it is a reflection of the change in platforms where the news is curated and disseminated.

Yet, when all is said and done, both parties need to consider what is best for their audiences, instead of the opportunity to boost audience figures. After all, it isn’t about quantity, but quality, and that an accurate, fair and quality piece of work benefits everyone – instead of something rushed.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member, is a member of SPJ’s Ethics Committee and a contributor to the SPJ blog network. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is a Managing Editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital Community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Twitter, authenticity and the audience

The record in the background is one with a driving rock, sort of punk sound, with vocal elements that echoes a sound nearly similar to that of the British rapper The Streets. Not too far away, a visual recording is taking place.

“Today, we’re kinda channeling a little carbon silicon – a little big audio dynamite.”

That is how Jade, who presents the weekday 10am-2pm CT program on 89.3 The Current, the music service of Minnesota Public Radio, begins to discuss one of their songs of the day this past week – TCR by the band Sleaford Mods. She was speaking to listeners and her followers on Twitter through a one minute video clip, microphone off as the record played on air.

Jade talks about the storytelling elements in this record, and though it may sound like its all about racing remote control cars, they use that to discuss the neighborhood they live in, as an element to tell that story.

After it is recorded, the clip is then tweeted by Jade, going out to listeners and music fans near and far.

Video has become an essential component into telling stories on Twitter, and to help journalists engage with audiences. Yet, it is not purely for storytelling, and can be used in a unique way to complement content, on-air or online.

Jade of Minnesota Public Radio’s 89.3 The Current says a humanistic approach can be helpful for journalists engaging with audiences. (Photo: Jay Gabler/MPR)

Song of The Day had been a regular web feature for The Current, based at MPR’s headquarters in St. Paul, for a number of years. Jade began doing the videos regularly 6 months ago. She said that listeners were keen for the deeper connection that had been emphasized since its launch 12 years ago.

“Radio isn’t about the tone of voice anymore,” Jade said in a telephone interview. “There is another way people want to communicate.”

Brett Baldwin, the managing digital producer for music services at MPR, which encompasses The Current and its classical service, Classical MPR, said in a telephone interview that they had always been looking for ways to provide something tangible — something that audiences can engage with. Baldwin noted that half of the social media audience was not based in Minnesota, so the Song of the Day clips were a natural thing in terms of that engagement.

Jade said that there wanted to be an emphasis on interacting in a personal way – similar to a friend. She says it provided a more human experience.

“I’m the one most excited about video,” Jade said. “I try (and our digital team tries) to push it. Its an easy way to interact with our audience on a deeper level.”

In spite of The Current being a music station, there are takeaways for journalists, including the humanistic approach that Jade emphasizes in the videos. That comes from making something short and understandable and convey feelings.

Baldwin says that a humanistic approach can translate to better engagement with audiences.

“At the end of the day we get a deepened relationship with the audience,” Baldwin said.

Yet, The Current is also cautious when it comes to reporting key music stories. That came into play when the news came of the passing of Prince at his studios at Paisley Park in suburban Chanhassen. The station was cautious before running with anything, stating what they knew at the time.

Jade was on the air as the news was confirmed, as Andrea Swensson (who blogs for The Current and presents The Local Current show) was reporting from the estate. The station would then play Prince tracks non-stop for 26 hours to coincide with tributes being done across the Twin Cities.

Jade adds that as The Current was a part of Minnesota Public Radio, they could go back and forth with colleagues at MPR News when it came to broader coverage of the event.

In the end, however, The Current wants to emphasize authenticity. Jade says that if the videos were just about getting clicks, they wouldn’t be as well received.

“It’s about authenticity,” Jade said. “That’s what we try to aim for.”

After all, Baldwin says, authenticity is quintessential in keeping the audience relationship intact.

“Audiences are vital, “Baldwin said, adding that though platforms will change, The Current wants that audience relationship to be real, and to be about the music and its stories. “If they’re not here, we’re not here.”

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and a contributor to the SPJ blog network. He also is a member of SPJ’s Ethics Committee.

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is a Managing Editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital Community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

 

A Moment for journalism

Twitter's roll-out of Moments to everyone provides significant opportunities for journalists and news organizations to engage with their audience. (Photo: Pixabay)

Twitter’s roll-out of Moments to everyone provides significant opportunities for journalists and news organizations to engage with their audience. (Photo: Pixabay)

It was announced last week that Twitter plans to roll out Moments, its program that features content from news organizations and others, to everyone. Introduced last October, it was designed to help engage users on the social network and to attract new users, something that chief executive Jack Dorsey has been trying to do since he took over as CEO from Dick Costolo last year.

Though Twitter says it will be made available to all within the next few months, the Nieman Lab at Harvard University notes the Moments that had been started by Allure Magazine, one of the brands selected by the Twitter media team. Indeed, with this news, there is the potential for news organizations to use Moments, whether its breaking stories or providing a wrap up on a comprehensive story, like the forthcoming presidential election.

The opportunity for this roll-out of Moments allows news organizations to further engage with audiences on Twitter, in addition to disseminating news and curating conversations surrounding a topic. Indeed, the Moments used by news organizations can allow Twitter to be a platform for users to get a quick digest of the news of the day, if they don’t have time to either watch a broadcast live or visit various news sites and read.

In addition, such a digest can also be a complement to live tweeting of any story in progress, giving reason for a user to stay on Twitter to see the world unfold through the signature 140 character statuses.

Yet, most of all, Moments can provide a new way to tell stories — to chronicle the events of the world and to present them in new ways. It allows for events like elections or other events, irrespective of beat, to be written in new ways, and to be made available to the public as a miniature resource, linking back to content within their organization.

Twitter’s decision to introduce Moments to everyone is a welcome for journalism on the platform, and will bring significant benefit to the engagement strategies of news organizations. It allows more focus for Twitter to be a platform for news, and for news organizations to push their offerings on the social network, as more and more users will spend time on the platform.

It also allows news organizations to encourage users to look at their other platforms, be it web or otherwise. Whether they will come is at their discretion, as this introduction may see Twitter as a competitor to other news sites for attention, whether its a local outlet or The New York Times, as more content is being produced.

Nevertheless, this ultimately gives journalists an opportunity to ponder the craft of storytelling, and to innovate for audiences. Whether it can be successful though will be found out…in a matter of mere Moments.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributor to the SPJ blog network. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is a Managing Editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

A transparent Facebook

Facebook should appoint a public editor for the interests of not just news organizations, but audiences. (Photo: Pixabay)

Facebook should appoint a public editor for the interests of not just news organizations, but audiences. (Photo: Pixabay)

It has become a common theme for Facebook in the past few weeks. Another day comes, and with it comes another change to its algorithm.

The most recent change came this week, when the social network announced its plans to combat clickbait by examining headlines of articles. Some types of headlines would be considered clickbait, including, according to a blog post on its corporate web site, those headlines that are misleading or withhold specific aspects of information.

Quoted in The New York Times, Adam Mosseri, Facebook’s vice president for product management, which oversees the News Feed, said the change was made with users’ interests in mind.

“We want publishers to post content that people care about, and we think people care about headlines that are much more straightforward,” Mosseri said.

This had raised some concerns with publishers, as well as additional concerns that they did not have insight into the decision making behind the algorithm changes, according to the Times report.

Mosseri said that he met regularly with publishers to discuss such changes, and that Facebook would be more transparent about its changes. Indeed, while transparency is all well and good, more needs to be done for a platform that has a significant influence in the relationship between consumer and news organization.

Earlier this year, I wrote a post for this blog advocating a public editor post be created within Facebook, a post that would, according to New York based journalism professor Jeff Jarvis, not edit per se, but be a voice for the public. I renew that advocacy with this post.

A creation of such a role (or perhaps multiple roles), similar to what is being done at organizations like the Times and at The Guardian, would ensure Facebook be truly transparent.

Indeed, the SPJ Code of Ethics, where under the section “Be Accountable and Transparent,” calls for a conversation about news coverage, content and journalistic practices. Even though Facebook itself is not a conventional media company, the rule should apply to them, considering the influence it has on the dissemination of information to users, as well as engagement strategies in various newsrooms.

As such, a creation of a public editor role would, in my view, support this call, and allow Facebook to be honest with not just its audience, but publishers as well, and allow for a full conversation about what role the social network can have in the future of this industry. With this role, we can understand the algorithm changes better, have our say on the changes, and help make the algorithm beneficial for the people who we serve — our audience.

While the same can be said for Twitter, Google and other platforms, having Facebook create a public editor role would be significant in the world of social media journalism, and perhaps others can follow their lead.

The idea and the call is there. The decision on whether a public editor role should be created, however, is solely in Mark Zuckerberg’s court.

Your move, Facebook.

Editor’s note: This post was amended at 4:04pm CT on August 7 to add that The Guardian also has the post of a global readers editor.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributing blogger to Net Worked on social media’s role in the future of journalism. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is a Managing Editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Facebook, an updated algorithm and journalism

Facebook's algorithm changes have caused a debate for news organizations. (Photo: Pixabay)

Facebook’s algorithm changes have caused a debate for news organizations. (Photo: Pixabay)

Facebook this week announced plans to implement another change within its algorithm. Yet, these changes would have further implications on the social network’s relationship with journalism.

Facebook said it would be changing the algorithm to place more of a focus on content from a user’s friends and family, which as a result would see content from publishers and news organizations appear prominently less in other news feeds.

However, according to a report from The New York Times, concerns of traffic decline may be subsided if the traffic in question comes from individual users sharing and commenting on videos.

Adam Mosseri, the vice president of product management for Facebook’s News Feed, quoted in the Times, said connecting to friends and family was a top priority for the social network, a message that was also emphasized in a blog post written by Mosseri, and published by Facebook last Wednesday.

“The growth and competition in the publisher ecosystem is really, really strong,” Mosseri said. “We’re worried that a lot of people using Facebook are not able to connect to friends and family as well because of that.”

In a separate post, Lars Backstrom, the Engineering Director, said the social network did anticipate a decline in traffic from pages, though it was dependent on audience composition.

The news feed is seen by 1.65 billion users a month, according to the Times.

In the business of social media, journalism has been seen as two things — a commodity in the context of the ability for platforms to engage users, as well as the ability for news organizations to not just retain but also engage new audiences through these platforms. It has evolved as a win-win relationship despite the controversy that is approached when it comes to the algorithm.

Facebook still has value for news organizations despite these changes considering its vast audience. However, it is a time for news organizations to take caution as to how Facebook is used and what further implications such an update may have.

Facebook’s goal may be its ability to connect friends and family together, but alongside that connection comes the conversation about current affairs and other subjects that is curated through the platform. At the core of that conversation is the content from news organizations that has become a central feature of a user’s News Feed.

Indeed, for news organizations, Facebook is more than just an ability to curate a conversation and enhance the civil discourse. It is an ability to inform audiences and tailor content to their needs and wants, to create insightful and meaningful journalism around the world in new ways.

Though it is not wise for a news organization to write Facebook off the social strategy at this stage, it is a time to monitor its next steps, for the next move by the social network will have an affect far beyond its ability to increase its reach. It will affect a crucial, quintessential relationship it has with journalism, either for better or for worse.

But in the end, what matters the most are the people directly accessing content. Facebook needs to consider that in its next steps as this update is rolled out, and we ultimately have to consider how to respond to it, not just for ourselves and our own engagement strategies, but for the people that matter the most — our audience.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributing blogger to Net Worked on social media’s role in the future of journalism. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is a Managing Editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

The social audience

Social media has the potential to help news organizations engage with younger audiences. (Photo: Pixabay)

Social media has the potential to help news organizations engage with younger audiences. (Photo: Pixabay)

Recently, Dr. Talia Stroud, the director of the Engaging News Project based at the University of Texas at Austin, wrote about a study looking at the role of gender and age in consuming news in the social media and mobile age.

In that post, examining the Mobile-First News report from the Miami based Knight Foundation and the ratings agency Nielsen, Stroud wrote about how women and younger audiences are more likely to engage with news on social media and mobile devices. Stroud added that she hoped this study would start a conversation within news organizations on how these audiences can be catered to, especially through social media.

Indeed, in this evolving age for journalism, there are opportunities for news organizations to make a difference, to enhance their journalism, to help audiences understand the world around them in new ways, especially when it comes to younger audiences.

Some organizations are already at the helm. In the UK, the BBC has a service called Newsbeat, telling the news from a younger audience standpoint, by offering explanation pieces on key events, especially during the UK’s most recent vote on its membership in the European Union.

It also provided unique analysis of the political fallout that followed, from the resignation of Prime Minister David Cameron and the Conservative Party to the concerns surrounding Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the opposition Labour Party.

Newsbeat airs two 15 minute editions, Monday to Friday, on the broadcaster’s pop music service Radio 1, and has presences on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat (search for bbc_newsbeat), as well as an app, accessible through its web site. Stories are also sometimes available as links from the main BBC News web site.

In the US, BuzzFeed has utilized video to encourage younger audiences to vote, recently uploading this video to its Facebook page featuring President Obama. BuzzFeed also produces news content on its web site as well as a News app.

Even though younger audiences are being exposed to media through multiple platforms and screens, there is potential for news organizations to make a difference, to help audiences understand issues in new ways. While the BBC and BuzzFeed are two notable examples of what is out there, there is much more that can be done to help younger audiences be informed news consumers.

Social media platforms and news organizations can work together to make that happen. Young people want to be informed, and in order for that to happen, more news organizations must look outside the box for that to happen, in spite of challenges that come.

For them, the ball is firmly in the news organizations’ court.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributing blogger to Net Worked on social media’s role in the future of journalism. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is a Managing Editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Social media: Journalism’s hub

Social media and the web have influenced how journalism is disseminated and presented. (Photo: Pixabay)

Social media and the web have influenced how journalism is disseminated and presented. (Photo: Pixabay)

New data from Britain released today has given a new indication as to the role social media has in the world of modern journalism.

The data, released as part of the Digital News Report by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford, showed that 73 percent of Americans consume news through the web, including social media, while 46 percent say they consume news exclusively through social (an increase of 6 percent compared to 2015).

The large amount of people consuming news online, and some through social exclusively, is evident in other countries as well. In the UK, 72 percent of people consume news online including on social platforms, while 35 percent say they consume news exclusively through social platforms (a decrease of 1 percent compared to 2015).

Facebook was the top social network for both countries, however there were some key differences in the top 5 social networks. Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn were in the top 5 in the US, while Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, WhatsApp and LinkedIn were in the top 5 in the UK.

The trends showcased in this report are indicative of where the industry is heading. Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter are becoming hubs for content, most notably from Facebook’s Instant Articles initiative. Indeed, as journalism is embraced in a multi-platform age, Twitter has taken advantage of this with its recent decision on its 140 character policy, allowing for a focus on multimedia elements, making photos and videos center alongside text.

As journalism continues to be a commodity within the business of social media, expect more of these projects or ideas to originate moving forward. Whether or not most of these plans come to fruition is uncertain, but one thing is clear — social media has become not just an influence in how audiences consume news, but how it is presented, and is challenging news organizations to think carefully and creatively to ensure successful engagement strategies. It is a win for journalism in the sense of outreach, but also presents questions as to where journalism will go next.

Social media is re-innovating journalism with every new project and platform. The ultimate question is if journalism itself can keep up.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributing blogger to Net Worked on social media’s role in the future of journalism. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is Long Form Editor and a contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Why Twitter’s changes are good for journalism

Twitter has unveiled changes to its 140 character format in response to investor concerns on user numbers. (Photo: Anthony Quintano/Flickr)

Twitter has unveiled changes to its 140 character format in response to investor concerns on user numbers. (Photo: Anthony Quintano/Flickr)

Recently, Twitter announced plans to revise its 140 character length. The changes come as chief executive Jack Dorsey continues to try to find ways to engage new audiences with the social network, amid a history of decline of the number of users.

The most notable changes come in embedding multimedia on the platform, as the photo, video, GIF, poll or quoted tweet (a retweet with added comments from a user) will no longer be counted in the 140 characters you would have available. Additionally, when tweeting a user, the @username will also not count against the 140 characters.

It is unclear as to when the changes will specifically be rolled out, but a blog post on Twitter’s corporate web site says these features would be rolled out within the next few months.

In an interview with the BBC last week, Dorsey said the focus was on ensuring that when people tweet, it makes sense.

The soon-to-be rolled out updates are good for journalism on the platform, as users look to Twitter to engage with journalists and news organizations, either through discussions on current issues, or to be informed about events on the go. Journalists and news organizations also can do crowd sourcing on the platform, and the changes would likely allow more context to be put into a request or verification of user generated content.

Yet, the big item will come from live tweeting a story, especially a breaking news story, and how multimedia elements can help tell that story on Twitter. Journalists will be able to tell a story better on the platform with more context, alongside the photos and videos, whether its a local piece, a sports event, or a story on the forthcoming elections.

These changes allow journalists, irrespective of beat, to truly have Twitter become another platform alongside conventional platforms, to expand the two-way conversation between journalist and user, and to practice accomplished and quality storytelling.

While there is a ways to go before Twitter’s problems are properly solved, this is a step in the right direction, and will allow journalism to flourish on the social network. It will benefit not only the engagement strategies for news organizations, but to the people that matter most — the audience.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributing blogger to Net Worked on social media’s role in the future of journalism. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is Long Form Editor and a contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Journalism by Facebook

Journalism was a key component of Facebook's growth. Above: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. (Photo: b_d_solis/Flickr)

Journalism was a key component of Facebook’s growth. Above: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. (Photo: b_d_solis/Flickr)

The New York Times today published an interesting collection of pieces in its Room for Debate series on if Facebook is saving journalism or ruining it. The series of pieces comes amid accusations last week that the social network was suppressing content supportive of Conservative policies and ideas, and the release of documents giving guidance to editors on trending topics.

Since Facebook launched over a decade ago, it has significantly influenced how we communicate with each other, and ultimately, how news organizations communicate with audiences. Its relationship with journalism has evolved, from the fan page encouraging interaction, to recent new features including Instant Articles, where content from publishers is hosted on the social network itself, and Facebook Live, where any news organization in the world can broadcast a Q&A or do live reporting, all with the touch of a button.

As Annalee Newitz of Ars Technica wrote, Facebook’s role with some media companies became symbiotic, and the social network “could save both mainstream and alternative journalism.”

It was clear that journalism was essential for Facebook’s growth, and Facebook was essential for journalism to engage and evolve in the digital age. Yet, as the relationship evolved, it signified a wider change in the business of social media, as well as journalism. It became a mutual relationship, and though Twitter and Snapchat would later play prominent roles in social journalism, Facebook would still be at the helm of that change.

However, in spite of its advances, the relationship has its share of issues, particularly on the subject of its algorithm. More work needs to be done to address that relationship, and more accountability, as Robyn Caplan of the Data Society argued in her piece, needs to happen. Indeed, as I wrote here last week, Facebook and other sites should hire public editors, in the aim to improve the relationship with platforms and the public, as well as the relationship between social media and journalism.

There are also more complications, particularly when the social network looks to announce changes. As Catherine Squires of the University of Minnesota wrote in her piece, Facebook’s focus ultimately is on the advertisers and other entities that make it run, and when privacy settings are changed and the news feed itself is changed, that becomes prevalent.

“People who are shocked that Facebook might be skewing their newsfeed probably shouldn’t have trusted them with their news diet in the first place, given its history,” Squires wrote. “This is not the company I’d trust to tell me what’s important in the world.”

Nevertheless, Facebook remains at the helm of what is now the norm in the business of modern journalism, and though the relationship can be best summed up as mutually complicated, it is clear that Facebook continues to have the lead in the world of social journalism.

It is, according to Wired reporter Julia Greenberg, “the most powerful distributor of news,” as users flock to Facebook and other platforms instead of directly going to publishers and news organizations themselves, causing publishers to think twice about their engagement strategies.

Platforms like Twitter are at the center of reinventing journalism. (Photo: Anthony Quintano/Flickr)

Platforms like Twitter are at the center of reinventing journalism. (Photo: Anthony Quintano/Flickr)

Facebook and these platforms are not necessarily saving journalism. Instead, they are reinventing journalism, upgrading it in a multi-platform, content focused age. Journalism is still a prevalent part of modern society, and the principles and ideas that remain at its core are still present even as the mediums themselves change.

Yet, the focus is transfixed on the content, and of all the platforms, Facebook remains the most popular hub. However, journalism still remains a constant, signaling a positive notion for an industry that remains in a state of flux.

In spite of its shortcomings, the mutual relationship between Facebook and journalism will continue to be dominant in the industry, and while questions will continue to be asked within newsrooms about how to best engage audiences, the relationship signifies a bigger message.

Even though it is being reinvented, journalism is not dead. It is here to stay, and though the mediums change, the mission remains the same — to inform, educate and enlighten, something that will always remain a quintessential part of the business of journalism.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributing blogger to Net Worked on social media’s role in the future of journalism. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is Long Form Editor and a contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Why Facebook needs a public editor

Mark Zuckerberg should hire a public editor for Facebook to benefit journalism's relationship with the platform. (Photo: b_d_solis/Flickr)

Mark Zuckerberg should hire a public editor for Facebook to benefit journalism’s relationship with the platform. (Photo: b_d_solis/Flickr)

It’s been a wild week for Facebook. The social network came under criticism this week for allegedly suppressing content that advocates Conservative policies when it comes to the content that appears on its Trending Topics list.

It also prompted a letter to the social network from John Thune, the Republican senator from South Dakota, with the senator saying if the bias were true, it was a violation of the values of an open internet.

The questions surrounding the allegations come as Facebook’s relationship with journalism continues to evolve. Facebook, according to a report from NPR, says it will be reviewing its practices and will be responding to the senator.

The social network has become one of the most quintessential platforms for dissemination of news, and a platform that news organizations have used to inform and engage audiences. Users flock to social media for news and information when they are on the go as well as to engage in conversations, which have become a signature of journalism in the 21st century.

The letter comes as documents from Facebook released to The Guardian newspaper in Britain shows guidelines similar to that of a traditional news organization, where editors are relied upon to exercise journalistic values in addition to the algorithms that sort the content for each user.

Yet as the questions continue, and as Facebook and other social platforms continue to be at the intersection of journalism for audiences, it perhaps could be time for Facebook to consider hiring public editors. They would, as Jeff Jarvis suggested in a post yesterday on Medium, not edit content, but be an advocate for the public. The idea also got an endorsement from Kelly McBride at the Poynter Institute, and it gets my endorsement too.

The rule however should not apply to just Facebook. Twitter, Google, Snapchat and others should also look into hiring public editors. These editors would be in a unique position to give insight on the core components of the interaction between users and these platforms, including the algorithms that shape these results.

Most importantly, these editors would help us better understand journalism’s relationship with these platforms, and how they can work better. It would be imperative for these public editors to be in place, and the quicker they are in place, the better the relationship will be for not just those who develop and curate this content, but for those who social networks, journalists and news organizations ultimately serve — the audience.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributing blogger to Net Worked on social media’s role in the future of journalism. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is Long Form Editor and a contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

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