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Newspapers: Fear and Loathing in Social Media


At Media140 I said mentioned that journalists (well some, anyway) weren’t really members of the social networks, just using them to lift stories, out of context, with no respect for the online community family. Or, weirdly, move between the two – sometimes mucking around with the rest of us on Twitter, the next minute lifting content to ridicule in heritage media channels. It’s annoying when a joke or a miffed tweet meant to be human interaction becomes front page News. From Marieke Hardy of Triple J on ABC NEWS

triple 7That’s right, I reserve my most sophisticated material for between 6:00am and 9:00am weekdays. For the most part this jolly little activity has been nothing more than a harmless attempt to “save” the “gold” for “on-air”, until two weeks ago when Triple J staff chanced upon a full-page picture of retiring NSW newsreader Ian Ross and considered what fun it might be to keep up the exhaustingly amusing tradition.

One of my co-presenters “did” the tongue, I – in an unbridled act of hilarity – tore little holes in Ian’s eyes and placed my own behind, googly and unblinking and garish. After a few high-spirited minutes and chortling photographs documenting the occasion we went back on air and forgot about it all completely. Until of course roughly two hours later when someone in the office pointed out that we were all of a sudden the lead story on a news website and perhaps it might be prudent of us to address this particular fact sooner rather than later?

There it was, splayed across the Daily Telegraph’s online edition in startling black type: “Channel Seven newsreader Ian Ross humiliated by Triple J in defaced advertisements on Twitter“.

I do wish the media – particularly print – would stop ransacking social media discussions, particularly cannibalizing their own, to sell newspapers. Not only does it make me doubt the sanity of Murdoch, who insists on paywalls, wanting to find new ways to sell our own stories back to us as News but it makes me wonder why we ever paid $2 bucks and change for Advertising, Press Releases and Beat Up Stories.

While the giddying lack of time between social networking event and breaking story has become increasingly unremarkable, the lust for a dirty scandal has surely reached ridiculous proportions.

Are the media honestly so hungry for a chance to stomp around shouting THIS IS AN OUTRAGE and STOP THIS SICK STUNT and other such self-important catchphrases that they are uncovering disrepute where there is, in fact, none to be found? And as a result of this will those who have any involvement in the media now limit their daily activities to a spot of tea and a digestive biscuit lest they too are dragged kicking and screaming into the mire?

It will come as no surprise to you, dear Reader, that newspapers now employ social media watchers, looking for a slip of the tongue, a naughty tweet, something that can be misdirected, misrepresented and spun into a scandal.

Consider this: Either we are self publishing online and “should know that everything is fair game” OR we are members of a community passing news around with due respect to the rules and rituals of that community.

For me, I’m never impressed with those that take a tweet or piece of content out of context and use their publishing power to bully or intimidate. What do you think?

PS I’m not lovin’ the Xmas theme, might be gone sooner rather than later.  Ho Ho bloody ho.

Laurel Papworth

Named by Forbes™ Magazine in the Top 50 Social Media Influencers globally, named Head of Industry, Social Media (Marketing Magazine™) and in the Power150 Media bloggers (AdAge™). CERT IV Training and Assessment certified trainer (Diplomas and Certificates etc) Adult Education. Laurel has manager Facebook Pages for Junior Masterchef, Idol, Big Brother etc. and have consulted on private online communities for banks Westpac, not for profits UNHCR & governments in SE Asia. Lecturer, social media, University of Sydney for 10 years and Laurel has 11,000 online students. Laurel Papworth personally connects to 6 million followers online and has taught around 100,000 people in the last 10 years how to be social media managers.

16 thoughts on “Newspapers: Fear and Loathing in Social Media

  1. I agree Laurel, (in spite of your tiny little typo in the last sentence). It’s not only print media though see: http://www.vexnews.com/news/4002/lipstick-on-a-pig-cfmeu-spin-doctor-jesse-dean-lifts-lid-on-her-secret-life-of-licentious-lefty-luxury/

    While we’re members of the community following the rules, the less ethical media has always done this.

  2. A little churlish, Laurel, to talk about newspapers nicking conversations from social media, when so much of social media discussion is built around links to traditional media…

    And what you’re essentially talking about is not some trend to mine social media, simply examples of cheap, crap journalism. There’s just new ways to do it. There’s always been crap journalism, and unfortunately there always will be. Thankfully the interweb delivers us plenty of quality reporting from very fine journalists if you want to go looking for it…

    1. yeah I thought about that. Trad media writes about human activity. We write about trad media and human activity. Bloggers also write about each others blogs. It’s a web of creator, responder, commenter.

      I guess the point I’m making – and maybe not clearly? – is that communities expect and usually receive respect. Bloggers tear shreds off each other’s ideas, but it’s not continual linkbait, unless it’s personal. Linkbait I think is bloggers term for “if it bleeds, it leads”. These types of articles which look personal to the victim are really an impersonal form of linkbaiting, selling more subscriptions, copies.

      A business reality for newspapers but takes away from their historical mandate as “news server to the community” and becomes “preyer on the community”. Is that too harsh?

      It probably is – because we are at fault. Why is crap journalism so well read – mainstream newspapers and photoshopped women’s magazines top the circulation list, rather than something a bit more erudite. Even the shock jock bloggers do better in the short term with crap journogging (journalist that blog sensationalist material).
      Beats me.

  3. Laurel,

    I think it’s much simpler than that. I’d make the point that crap journalism is NOT a new trend. It’s existed for as long as the media has. I get fed up with new media campaigners and social media experts reading the Daily Telegraph gossip column and deciding all media is rotten. No, the Daily Telegraph is rotten – there’s plenty of quality stuff out there, and it’s never been easier to access. Don’t tar all journalists and all ‘traditional’ reporting models with the same brush. Much of it is good, and much of it is STILL the best model for upholding those fourth estate principles that remain vital.

    As I said, exploitative journalism has been around since the printing press. Online networks are merely the new medium for gathering it.

  4. Laurel, the media’s bread and butter is to take information ‘out of context and use their publishing power to bully or intimidate’, no matter whether it is social media or not. Sadly, those in social media are going to have to get used to that and, probably, contextualise their content in this knowledge.

    Conversely, high-minded/aspirational social media principles can be adhered to and, over time, this may influence the less principled elements of traditional media.

    I wouldn’t be holding your breath, though….

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