Social media “news:” May the 4th edition

Dog in yoda costume
This picture, via the Twitter account @ministryofsound, is one of the many pictures on social media celebrating “May the 4th” be with you, or National Star Wars day.

What qualifies something as “news?” In my journalism classes, I have learned that newsworthiness can be determined by a number of factors: timeliness, proximity, human interest, prominence, etc. Enter in social media. Can events and occurrences on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and the like be newsworthy? Yes. Just look at Twitter hacks.

On April 23, the Associated Press‘ account (@AP) was hacked by the Syrian Electronic Army. The account sent out a report that there was an explosion at the White House and President Obama was injured. The tweet, a mere week after the Boston Marathon Bombings, sent the stock market into a tailspin for five minutes. The Dow Jones plummeted 150 points and the price of crude oil fell. The account was suspended immediately and the information corrected, causing the market to regain almost all of its losses. The event made national news and intensified a conversation about the benefits of a two-step authentication system.

Today, E Online (@eonline) was hacked in similar fashion, spewing fake tweets about Justin Bieber‘s alleged coming out and Angelina Jolie’s admission that Jordan was to blame for political strife in Syria. Is this news? Yes. Hacking accounts, disrupting service to followers, fear about malware— all of this screams newsworthiness to me.

However, there are some social media stories that are definitely not news. Look at this one from the Toronto Sun, titled “Star Wars Day celebrated on social media.” Today is May 4, and various Star Wars memes and jokes about “May the fourth be with you” have been peppering my Twitter and Facebook feeds all day. The story (in Storify form, interestingly enough) explains the joke and then provides many examples. I would argue that this is unnecessary. True, it would have been easy to pull together. Even more true, it could be a slow news day and a pop culture reporter was looking for something to post before deadline. However, I see it like this: there are two types of people in this world. Those with a social media presence and those without. Those with a social media presence would see these “May the 4th” posts. They do not need a news story to alert them to this trend. Those without a social media presence would not know these posts even existed; they would not care that these posts existed. They do not need a news story to alert them to this trend.

In my opinion, these types of stories make social media seem trivial and useless to people who don’t already know its immense value. Perhaps I am just of the “hipster mentality:” it is only cool until you talk about it, label it cool and spread it to the masses.

What do you think? Am I taking this too seriously? Have you seen any “dumb” social media news stories lately?

(On a side note, I recently got Vine. I am seeing some very interesting uses of it, such as the CDC and Department of Health & Human Services. More to come on this.)

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