Social Media Taken As Gospel

Be aware that mainstream media outlets now quote social media quite willingly and I have real worries that they’re not checking these sources. When I did some casual production work on the Channel 7 news desk in Melbourne in 2010 they were raiding social media sites regularly and swiping photos and comments. Then I read the other day about this media trainer in the US who said: “I saw it happening as far back as 2010, when my state’s largest newspaper (the Minneapolis Star Tribune) was literally copying and pasting Facebook comments from our organization’s Fan Page directly into its online AND print stories as new happened regarding the nurses’ strike I was doing PR for. The Star Tribune had no way of verifying if the people posting were actually real nurses or even members of our association, since they don’t have access to our member database and since they didn’t call and ask us to verify the names of the people they quoted from Facebook.”

Journalists then could be assuming these social media comments are factual, and that’s a real concern. You see, it’s easier than ever to just create fake accounts and post the type of talking points you want the mainstream media to pick up on and report.

Also, it would take far too much time/effort from a reporter’s point of view to try and track down these anonymous FB/Twitter users in real life, ask for details, verify their identities and stories, ask for proof those things happened, etc. By the time you did all that, the story would be “old news” in today’s instant, 24/7 news cycle.

The one thing journos don’t have in this day of reduced budgets and more news to cover is TIME. So a journalist can find it too tempting not to use social media material, particularly if it’s shocking or salacious. Keep that in mind.

We’ve been pointing this out in our media training workshops for a few years now.

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