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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Will Twitter outlast the Times?

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...
Will Twitter outlast the NYTimes? Image via CrunchBase.

In this recent article from CNNMoney.com, Peter Thiel, Former CEO of PayPal, said that Twitter employees need not worry about their jobs 10 years from now. Employees of the New York Times, however, should fear for the longevity of the newspaper.

Granted, Thiel was mainly discussing the business side of things, and the newspaper industry is currently going through a major struggle to keep its revenue up. However, the fact that professionals say such a thing shocks me.

I have always thought of the NYTimes as “too big to fail.” If the public has a need for a newspaper, and I would argue that it most certainly does, then the public will have a newspaper such as the Times to keep it from being thwarted by politics and those who would deceive the American public. However, now I see that perhaps this is too much of a Pollyanna-esque view.

This means a few things. 1) In the future, I should keep my job search wide. If a newspaper isn’t around, which I believe is not true, then I need to have other skills that make me marketable. 2) I should buy some stock in Twitter when/it it comes out with an IPO. 3) I should consider a career at Twitter.

After the AP Twitter hack last week, the social media site has come under fire for not adequately protecting its journalists who use the micro-blogging platform. It seems to be stepping its game up, however, by posting a new position on its jobs page. The title? Media– Head of News and Journalism. 

What can I, a journalism student in this social media-savvy century, learn from this? If Twitter is taking Journalism seriously, then the rest of the world should, too. Traditional print media may be going through a rough patch right now, but the industry as a whole will be here to stay. (I hope.)

Are you going to apply for the job? If you were given this position, what would you do to increase the relationship between Journalists and Twitter?