Utilizing Social Media as a Student Journalist
Posted on 11th April 2023 at 19:16
By Sebastian Grace
Interacting effectively with social media has been a vital part of my education as a student journalist, whether that be for assignments and research or publication and promotion.
As a reporter, social media can be a powerful tool to gather news, disseminate information, engage with audiences, and build sources. Reporters such as Wesley Lowery have developed a personal brand online that serves to amplify their message hundreds of times over what would have been capable 20, even 10, years ago.
Despite all of Elon Musk’s recent antics, Twitter remains the go to hub for journalistic activity on the web. (Sorry Mastodon’ers). I use the site to stay up to date with happenings at the intersection of my interests in politics, media culture and society, following 100’s of journalists and thought leaders in these spaces. I also search for potential interviews and information sources such as articles and academic papers on Twitter to inform my own writing. This helps me stay updated on the latest news developments and identify potential story ideas.
Obviously a level of information analysis and veracity-checking proficiency is required, given the level of inaccuracies and disinformation propagated online. But with a carefully curated follow list, and tricks such as gearing your search engine to reflect a non algorithmic, chronological presentation of posts, once can maximize Twitter and maintain your journalistic integrity.
Social media provides journalists without the reputational backing of a prestigious outlet such as the New York Times an opportunity to directly engage with sources, experts, and audiences, and the chance to respond to comments and messages from your audience to foster engagement and build relationships.
Other platforms like Tiktok and Instagram allow visual storytellers the opportunity to share forms of journalism that are potentially more engaging than the written word, reducing barriers to access to reporting that may exist elsewhere behind a paywall.
Many journalists use social media platforms for real-time reporting through live videos, tweets, or posts. You can cover events, protests, press conferences, or other breaking news situations live on social media to provide up-to-the-minute updates to your audience. In projects such as covering the Boston mayoral election, I live tweeted coverage from polling locations, for example.
Given the flaring debate around objectivity in the news business, neutrality and much-heralded traditional principles of journalism in a world adrift with polarization and divide, social media can allow reporters to carry a beacon with a trusted audience who prioritize being informed and magnify their work to further its reach and impact.
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