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Social Media & Journalism: My Take

by Guest Blogger, Lena West, Chief of Social Media Strategy at xynoMedia

Journalism Two weeks ago, I was interviewed by a graduate student for her thesis. The focus of her paper is about how social media is changing journalism.

So, what has this got to do with marketing to women? After all, this is a blog about marketing to women.

Journalism is ultimately about media and if marketing isn't about media, I don't know what is. I'm also highly interested in the intersection between journalism, women, marketing and media - as I don't think women - especially women of color - are accurately represented in quantity or quality. But, that's another blog post for another day.

I thought you might want to "listen in" on some of the thoughts I shared about journalism and social media with this grad student - look for the parallels in your industry.

Q: Your specialty is the development of social media. Do you believe that social media, such as Twitter, Facebook, or the like will eventually take the place of newspapers?
A: I'm leery of so-called experts who speak in absolutes, so the word "replace" kind of digs at me here. I would say that social media tools (including social networks like Facebook, etc.) will play a much more complementary role in journalism and those who don't think so are probably in denial.

For example, according to a story at Editorsweblog.org, the New York Times has suggested a potential solution to what's plaguing the publishing industry is for newspapers to change their business models to become nonprofit entities funded by endowments.

Now that may not appear to have anything to do with social media but, it does. Thanks to a seriously competitive information market - that's led largely by access to free information - (think Twitter)

Q: Do you think it should? Would it be better?
A: No, I don't think anything about social media should replace any form of marketing or any form of communication. Again, not speaking in absolutes about social media's impact. Social media is like makeup, it's the ultimate enhancer.

Q: How is social media better than traditional journalism?
A: In some ways, it's better. For example, immediacy, ease of sharing and conversation comes to mind. However, I do think that the low barrier to entry for social media tools has created a few "loose cannons" that otherwise would not be tolerated in traditional journalism - and that's not necessarily a good thing. I believe in fact checking and journalism standards.

Q: Is there a growing need for social media? (trends of those WANTING it, for example, have they gone up?)

A: Oh, for sure. Nielson Online recently released social networking use stats (http://www.nielsen-online.com/pr/pr_090602.pdf) and the numbers are stunning - especially the Twitter metrics. I would say that these numbers all point to both a greater need AND want of social media content.

Q: Do you think journalists will become ‘social media specialists’ or do you think social media will get rid of traditional journalists and create their own niche employees?

A: Whoa, there's that "get rid of" language again. No absolutes. I think that journalists will need to understand social media tools more and we see this happening, look at how CNN has totally embraced the use of Twitter. Social media will take excellent journalism and make it sparkle with interactivity and collective energy.


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Lena L. West


Thanks for the compliment.

I try my best to make social media easy-to-use. I'm glad it's working.

Thanks for reading and commenting.

Cheryl Miller

Lena - this is my favorite sentence in your post: "Social media is like makeup, it's the ultimate enhancer." You're good at using metaphors to simply describe things.

It so fits with the name of this blog.

Lena L. West


I agree with what you've said except for this part " CNN and other news providers are going to pay an ugly price if they continue to consider Twitter as a source of news information or even opinion". Here's why: I don't believe that CNN an other reputable news providers consider Twitter as a SOURCE of news information or opinion. Let's tackle the opinion part - this is journalism, there's no opinion (unless it's OpEd) only fact. Now, the former part, CNN and other reputable news providers use Twitter technology as a way to engage their audience about topics that have already been vetted as bonafide news. In the instances when verification is NOT available, I have seen them say something to the effect of, "this is the buzz on Twitter, but this story has not been confirmed".

Now, that is NOT to say that there isn't someone at CNN (and other news providers) watching the Twitter stream to see if there is actual news to be vetted - the operative phrase being, "to be vetted".

I think CNN is super-smart for their use of Twitter and Facebook. I think it's the reason THEY are the leading news source and the reason that "traditional" new sources are flailing about like college girls on Spring Break.

Thanks for reading and commenting!

Tom Huskerson

After having read this interview I believe that the truth of social media is that is more a "social" medium not a journalistic medium. The primary problem I see with social medium and true journalism is exactly what you pointed out. The use journalistic standards and ethics. I am gong to predict that CNN and other news providers are going to pay an ugly price if they continue to consider Twitter as a source of news information or even opinion. I believe that true journalism is where the reporters and producers demand truth and do the investigative leg work that is required to get at the truth. This is not the strong point of Facebook or Twitter. News agencies are ripe target for hoaxes and outright lies if they can't investigate the source of news or opinions.

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