What can you say in 140 characters?


First, please forgive me for posting my question late.  I realize that some of you might be trying to get your homework done before the weekend so you could watch the game (Go Blue!), and so I apologize for making that more difficult.  That being said, let’s continue on and discuss what might be the future of the news!

As I’ve written about in a previous reading response, my local newspaper (The Ann Arbor News) was cancelled and moved purely to an online format except for its Sunday paper.  I can recall particularly fond memories of growing up and reading the news with my father, and I have recently realized that I probably will not share that experience with my own kids.  This then made me wonder what news will look like in the next years or decades.

I get my news from Twitter, and no, I’m not proud to admit it.  If everyone seems like they’re buzzing about something, I’ll likely check my Twitter feed first to see what is happening.  When the Colorado Shooting Massacre occurred, I found out about it after checking my Twitter when I woke up and followed closely on Reddit for the rest of the day.  When I was watching the Presidential debate several days ago, I was also following on Twitter.  Actually, the debate set some new Twitter records, which can be read here.  If I mentioned the word “Kony” to our parents, many would give me blank stares, but odds are many of you would know exactly who and what I’m talking about.  The article about the Kony video here proves that Twitter and other social media sources, like YouTube in this particular case, might very well be the sole way we get our news in the future, based on the demographics and how young adults get their news today.

I struggle to believe that our news will ever be whittled down to a 140-character tweet, but people seem to disagree with my view.  This article I believe is a pretty surprising and visually interesting description of how social media has affected the news.  This website, which is rather depressing, literally documents all the newspapers, like my hometown’s, that are going out of circulation due to the public’s demand for online news.  The article that I’ve directed you towards talks specifically about USA Today’s possibly bleak future.

Based on these readings, my questions for you to toss around are:

  1. How does social media affect your news intake?
  2. Could social media ever “oust” journalists now that everyone can post the news?
  3. Will the role of journalists in our society change?
  4. Do you think all newspapers, like my hometown, will ever become entirely digital?

Thanks, and I look forward to reading your responses!



11 Responses to “What can you say in 140 characters?”

  1. Very thought-provoking post, Becky. I never been much of a newspaper reader, primarily because I’ve always lived in rural areas where we’d have to get a subscription to a larger paper or just accept the weekly/monthly local newspaper. So, for years now, my news has come from social outlets, be it from friends, or social media. Because of this, though I missed a lot of, especially world, news that may not have been interesting to my peer group. Now that I listen to NPR on my commute to school, I’ve been realizing how much social media has affected what sort of news I found out about.

    I think there will always be a need for journalists, even if everyone can post about the news, but there will be a need for journalists to be more creative and in-depth with their work, I think. Their role is already changing, because so many journalists have more followers on Twitter than would normally read their articles, if they are from a small paper. They have more of a public presence, I think. This gives them more visibility ,but also will push them to compete against the everyday news-posting citizen.

    I think there are several newspapers that are sacred, the NY Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, and will probably be in print for a long time, but I think local, small-market papers will soon become fully digital, or at least limit their amount of printing days. I don’t necessarily know that this makes me sad, though. Things change, and that should be embraced when it can be.

  2. I believe some news can be conveyed through Twitter in 140 characters but most of the news will always come from traditional sources. Traditional sources being journals, newspapers, and news on TV. The rise of social media to utilize it as a news outlet is definitely increasing but like Peter has stated above, there will always be a need for journalists in the world. People like to have their information come from credible sources. Anybody could “write up” a news story, spread it all over social media channels, create a huge buzz about it, and become known for it. But would that “news” have any shred of truth or contribute to someone’s knowledge? If yes or no, would people want to follow what that author has to say in the future? I like to read news from newspapers and journals myself because in some situations I really believe the truth behind the news can be lost in some outlets like TV and social media. Same holds true why we as a people keep records or old documents in library’s. We like to preserve our history in news in the truest form from the same timeframe. So a news story could be presented in 140 characters, but I think it would be best presented on a website or a newspaper so a reader can “get the big picture.”

  3. This was a great post, Becky.

    Coming from a small town in the Upper Peninsula, our daily newspaper “The Eagle Herald” was also a family staple. We read the paper together, looked for pictures of people we knew, and laughed as a family at some of the quirky stories that made it into our little paper. My grandpa actually met my grandma because he was her family’s paperboy and would always hang around their house. I ask them to tell me the story all the time because it’s just so cute! However, our paper is now on the web, and I’m afraid it won’t last much longer in print. The company has already started mailing us the paper instead of having someone deliver it to our paper-box to cut costs. I completely agree with you that there is a social and familial aspect to the newspaper that is difficult to replace by social media, or any online news for that matter. There’s just something heart-warming about sitting down and reading the paper over breakfast.

    On the other hand, social media and online news definitely wins in the “how much information can we shove in your face?” competition. Newspapers are limited to how much info they can send to the public, but the Internet has no limits. I get a lot of my news from Facebook, believe it or not. I’ll admit that I am a Facebook addict (there, it’s out of the way now). From the latest news about my friend circle to global news, Facebook gets me started by hearing about it from my friends. Then I tend to move to Google or Yahoo News to figure out the whole story and form my own opinion on it. I don’t use Twitter for my news feed as much, but I can definitely see how valuable it could be.

    So what does the future look like in regard to social media and journalism? I think that journalists will always be needed as a more “credible” source of information than some random person on Twitter or Facebook. However, I think that the role of the primary sources of a news topic may be in the process of switching from journalists to social media users. Journalists will have to get more creative, and probably use Twitter and Facebook A LOT to get their news out there. This article (http://goo.gl/Su9I4) shows that 55% of journalists use social media to get their word out. We’re already starting to see it today. Watch the news on various channels and you will see the journalists’ Twitter handles all over the place. As long as they stay with the curve, their jobs will be needed. It will definitely be interesting to see how the dynamics change throughout the years, but I think that the public should always benefit from the paradigm shifts seen in journalism.

  4. I really enjoyed this post. The chart that explained what sources of media provided news to people was very interesting, mainly because I don’t encounter things like that often. And, to be honest, social media is mainly how I get my news too. True, 140 characters can’t get an entire news story across, but it acts as a mediator for me. Tweets introduce a story and then lead me to the story with a link. Now this isn’t the case for every thing because when people tweet about news stories, they hardly ever include a link for further reference. Therefore, it is very unreliable at times.

    As I read this post, I realized that the change we see in how people receive their news is somewhat of a reflection of people’s lifestyles. The digital age has really taken over. We are constantly surrounded by technology that let’s us have access to any information at almost any time and place. Additionally, people have become a lot more busier as they juggle school, work, families, and other things at once. I personally don’t think I have enough time to sit down and read a newspaper or even watch the news at times. I rely heavily on websites during study breaks to get my news.

    I don’t think social media will ever “oust” journalists because the general public is not qualified enough to provide an actual story. People mainly provide opinions and snippets of stories through social media. Journalists capture the facts and opinions of a story and provide that to us. True, the nature of their jobs may change, in terms of how they produce their work. Paper journalism may not be as widely available because people have integrated technology into their lives so quickly. I am still curious to see how this transition will continue to happen.

  5. Hi Becky, great analysis of this global trend! The perceived shift from print to digital journalism is a really controversial issue that all of us in this class, as privy to the birth and rise of the Internet, is witnessing expand firsthand. The Kony video is such a great example of the power and influence of social media. I watched that video, cried, shared it with all my friends, told them to pass it on to others- without even knowing anything about Kony or his child armies, or the legitimacy of the director and his crew for that matter! Because we have come to embrace social media to the point where so many of us are likely to say we can’t live without it- we have learnt to trust what we see on Facebook more than on news channels, value the opinions of our friends over our own, and share every novel thing we see online without knowing anything about the person who wrote it.

    Indeed, social media and digital journalism are typically seen as the antithesis to their printed counterparts. Conventionally, traditional journalism typifies the values of lexical formality and rigorously implemented editorial standards, whereas social media is usually defined as the exact opposite. In this sense, social media can be seen as negatively compromising the traditions of print journalism as it can be argued that social media is rendering the academic training and the cultivated skills of journalists obsolete.

    However, the claim that social media is solely detracting from the efforts of traditional journalism is asserted with various logical impediments. Whilst print journalists cannot match the speed with which the social media can report, bloggers and digital journalists can only copy and paste when it comes to creating the visual and literary iconography that has for so long defined the world of print media. This will remain so as long as they don’t have the funds to employ the photographers, writers, and producers that fuel traditional journalists’ flights of fancy. At this point in time, only the hierarchical publications have the advertising revenue to employ such visionaries – roles that no single blogger or social media website could ever hope to replicate.

    Essentially, social media is a secondary means of ingesting in a more accessible way, the information that is primarily provided by traditional journalists and print publications (most Facebook ‘news articles’ are links to online articles from print publications), and if newspapers and other print media were to dry up in the face of their online competition, this would pose huge detriment to social media itself. Thus, we can only hope that the old and new of journalism continue to coexist, enriching our experience of news altogether.

  6. Great post. This is interesting because I believe I do learn about most breaking news through Twitter or Facebook. While I receive RSS updates from some major newspapers, they typically send out a story list once a day with the headlines — and while sometimes a breaking news bulletin will come to me via email, most mainstream publications won’t be able to address breaking news until the next day’s issue. While TV is able to cover these events when they happen, I either don’t have time to watch TV, or, like last year, don’t have access to one here in college. Twitter and Facebook are incredibly convenient, and I can access them virtually anywhere, making them perfect news-aggregating outlets for me. Also, for those publications that won’t be able to write a really in-depth story until the next day, Twitter and FB allow them to post the basics, as well as updates as they occur. As an example, when J. Christopher Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, was killed, I found out on Twitter, and went through my Twitter feed for more information before going to the New York Times’ webpage. I was also able to easily check on updates throughout the day.

    That said, I don’t think these social media outlets will ever replace professional journalists either — I’d consider them more of incredibly large and successful crowd sourcing projects. But no one’s going to trust the word of a random person on Twitter over a journalist at a credible publication.

    And while many newspapers have ceased home delivery, I don’t believe physical newspapers will ever become obsolete, at least in our lifetime. The “best” papers, such as the NYT, will probably always have some sort of physical publication. What’s really interesting is how “papers” such as the Huffington Post (all online) will continue to develop and become more established.

    I believe that comprehensive newspapers like the NYT, the Washington Post and probably the Wall Street Journal will always have some sort of a print version. What I see happening is that niche papers or trade publications, such as the Automotive News (based in Detroit) may move online. I also believe that we will see more and more niche online papers, where there is an audience, but it may be widespread without large concentrations of subscribers. In cases like this, having a print version is an impracticality, but an online forum would work well.

    In this respect, the role of journalists will change, and I believe follow a trend that’s already somewhat apparent. Journalists will need to be experts in a certain field, and report on that field. If this is in a niche online forum, that may mean working from home on very specialized pieces. If this is for a mainstream publication that still prints, this means that a journalist will need to become a “brand” in and of him or herself.

    There will always be work for journalists like Paul Krugman, Nicholas Kristof, Maureen Dowd and Fareed Zakaria, 1. Because they’re incredible, but 2. Because you know that they’re experts and you know that they’re trustworthy. I read a column recently that discussed how journalists themselves are becoming the brand that readers are subscribing to, rather than the paper or publication. I think this is incredibly accurate, and will become even more important in the future, when anyone can report the news and claim to be a journalist. This goes back to the social media question — chances are I’m going to trust Paul Krugman’s interpretation of the jobs numbers over a Facebook friend’s.

    So, I believe journalists are becoming the trusted experts in an area that people will rely on for in-depth, factually sound information — whether the subject be the looming financial cliff or the best low-calorie cupcake recipe.

  7. Thank you for sharing those articles! Like you, I also access much of my news through Twitter – but I am not ashamed! I created a twitter account with the intention of only following news sources of all kinds (National Geographic included). I think that Twitter is interesting because you can choose who to follow and get information straight from the source. It is as if the New York Times is coming to me instead of me chasing after it. This allows me to see headliners and decide if it is something I am interested in – it gives me a glimpse into the news and provides a brief explanation. I think that this draws me to read the news more often, because once I get onto one news page, I get carried away and before I know it 2 hours browsing news sources has passed – and this is all thanks to Twitter!

    I do not believe, however, that social media will “oust” professional journalism. Reading articles written by journalists from credible sources, such as CNN or the New York Times, provides a sense of security for readers. We, as readers, trust that these journalists have committed themselves to a topic and have done their research, providing us with reliable information. On the other hand, I do think that the spread of information through social media has made the job of a journalist more challenging. Journalists have to compete with a plethora of false/attractive news stories that are contaminating the internet. Journalists have to find a way to attract readers to their articles before they get pre absorbed by nonsense. Having their information stick out from others is definitely a major challenge for journalists today and will continue to be in the future.

    Relating to your last question, I sadly think that it is a possibility that (almost) all news sources will reside to only being online. I like to think of this subject in relation to books. People will always have this desire to hold a book, smell the pages, and get the satisfaction of flipping a page. Although books are available on digital sources, I do not think that the Nook will ever replace the actual book. Similarly, people have a relationship to newspapers. Sitting down with newspapers and sipping a cup of coffee creates an aura that is irreplaceable. However, online news sources have benefits that cannot be provided through text on paper. Benefits include links to previous articles on a subject, room for comments by readers, links to related stories, and easier and faster publication. So, while I think that some major news sources, such as the New York Times, will continue to have print as an option, most news sources will resort to only online access. Much to my personal dismay, this might become the reality.

  8. First, I really like the title of this post, it definitely grabbed my attention!
    The only social media site I’m on is Facebook, so I do get some news from that, but I wouldn’t say that it is my primary news source. Honestly, seeing news on social media is kind of exhausting. It seems that most of my friends end up posting the same story or variations of the same news, each with their own unique (often very opinionated) blurb tacked on to the post. Most of my news does come from online sources though; my homepage is a news site so I get most of my news from that site. That’s not to say that I necessarily prefer online news to printed news. There is something particularly satisfying about sitting down to read a newspaper or magazine rather than stare at a computer screen. It really seems to be a matter of convenience. It is easier to access online news anytime anywhere, especially when I have a computer with me all day and have a free minute or two to spare.
    I have several friends who exclusively get their news from Facebook and other social media sites. That being said, I don’t think that social media could ever replace journalists. We still need credible individuals to research and report on the news. Social media is a way to share it and spread it to a broader audience. I think Peter makes a good point that a lot of journalists have twitters or social media profiles and that many people follow those sources rather than going to the news site that published the story. This is another reason why journalists will not become obsolete. Perhaps there will be decreased demand for news via paper sources (as the website Becky posted suggests) but not a decreased demand for journalists themselves. Expanding on Peter’s point, it’s possible that journalists will become more known for their name rather than the network or source they work with (like CNN or NBC). It’s possible that more journalists will become freelance journalists rather than be associated with a particular network, magazine, or paper.
    I don’t think that all newspapers will become entirely digital, but in order to keep with the times all newspapers will definitely have an online component. I’m not even sure that all small papers will go solely digital because they are likely still important to the residents of the towns in which they are established. The small newspaper in my town has an online component, but I can’t imagine it going completely paperless because there are still several people that I know that read the paper in lieu of going online for the news. And personally, although I don’t do it all the time, I would miss the opportunity to sit down in my kitchen with a cup of coffee and the paper to absorb the newest headlines.

  9. I think there will always be a need for news writing, but not necessarily always a great enough desire for newspaper journalism to keep it around for much longer. People enjoy the experience of holding a newspaper and reading print news, but this crowd is dwindling. Sadly, there might not be enough demand to keep print news around for much longer. As much as this sucks, it is a practical prediction.

  10. I understand the concept of Twitter shaping our news intake, and I think instant news via twitter is a great idea. I personally do not have a Twitter because I like getting my news from experts and journalists rather than my overly dramatic aunt or widely conservative high school friend. Taking out the social aspect of Twitter and using it as instant news, as new developments occur, and short tidbits of information make news more interactive. The ability for a person to “repost” or “tweet back” about topics gives people more investment into the news.

    So, Twitter as a tool for news can be beneficial, but will it ever oust journalism? I think not. Mostly because of the need for expert opinions or first person accounts to get the full story. 140 characters can tune you into the topic, but cannot give the whole news feature. Newspapers are becoming unpopular, but I think there will always be a need for journalists to write or report online or broadcast via the radio or television.

  11. Becky, excellent and thought provoking post!

    Twitter and facebook, much like News Week and The New York TImes, serve as outlets for relaying information. Are all journalists who write News pieces experts in their field? No. Are all people who intake news experts in the fields that they’re reading (or tweeting or posting) about? No.

    Reporting and intaking news has always been something that anyone can do! (Here, I’d like our class to look back at our affirmations from the beginning of the semester–“I believe that anyone can be a journalsist if_____.”

    With that, facebook and twitter, in my opinion, don’t make people less adept at understanding what they’re writing or reading about, but rather makes their misinterpretations of mis-renderings more public.

    When News pieces were solely printed the forum for public scrutiny was small. Letters to the editors were reseved for people who had an opinion–and REALLY wanted to tell it. Now, all it takes to comment on a news piece is a simple clicks and glitzy screen name–and let’s face it, you really don’t need too much glitz to get noticed!

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