Social media bad for newspapers? Waah
I don't know whether to be appalled or just amused at the reported quote from AP's Liz Sidoti that social media is a "time suck" threatening young journalists' understanding of reporting basics.
I didn't hear it myself; I think that comment came while I was across the street from the Seigenthaler Center, in the parking lot dealing with Vanderbilt police about vandalism and burglary of my truck (which is another story).
But I have a couple of things to say about it.
About an hour later Friday morning, I was on an APME panel with Jay Small and Frank Daniels III, moderated by Ellyn Angelotti, discussing social media. And what I told the editors is this: social media is at the core of why people use the Internet.
If you define yourself as a "newspaper," social media is bad for you. You are going to lose. There is no way around that. But if you frame your world differently, the scene changes.
Like the universe, journalism is expanding. AP plays a shrinking role in that universe, at the head end of the reporting process on primarily world and national news. Journalism used to be describable as "gather, order, and present" -- or reporting, writing and publishing. AP lives in the first two layers, disconnected from and sometimes baffled by the rest.
But that's not the process any more. Journalism doesn't end with publication of a story, or even necessarily begin with the reporter. Journalism now is a dynamic and continuous process that can begin with the "people formerly known as the audience" and continues after publication in a public, social interaction in which the community discusses, digests, processes, adds to, remixes and redistributes information.
One-way journalism was an illusion of the 20th century. It's over. Past tense. It was illusory anyway. Social processes existed even when we didn't see them.
Practicing journalism in this century requires social media literacy and engagement in all the layers. Yes, it's a time suck, along with everything else. As an old copy editor once told me, "that's why they call it work."
And while social media may be bad for "newspapers," it's bad for us only if we fail to grasp larger, more complex definitions of journalism, our products, and our business models. It's bad if we screw up. And the first, easiest way to screw up big-time is to imagine it's not important.