Off The Record…

June 14, 2011 5:24 pm

Is using social media sources lazy journalism or organic, evolved reporting?

We recently blogged about the way social media has impacted on traditional media. One of the main consumer-facing changes is that instead of interviewing sources, more and more mainstream newspapers and magazines are bypassing the ‘horse’s mouth’ and going straight to its social media footprint.

There are arguments both for and against this practice. Traditionalists claim it indicates lazy, cobbled-together journalism; modernisers say a tweet is as good a quote as any.

One issue that arises out of the discussion is whether or not the information on your Facebook wall or is an accurate representation of your views. Cherry-picking quotations to suit the flavour of an article is nothing new for journalists, yet does the fact that they can now select pieces of information from a person’s page never intended to be used in a news story (without first clarifying the quotation with them) mean that people are unfairly portrayed?

When social media comments become content

According to the Australian Journalist’s Association code of ethics, journalists ‘shall identify themselves and their employers before obtaining any interview for publication or broadcast’. While accessing public information on a Facebook page or Twitter account does not necessarily flout that notion, does this mean that our social media utterances allow us all to be ‘interviewed’ on our opinions without our knowledge?

The buzz from Chris Lilley’s latest ABC TV show Angry Boys lit up social media channels during and after its debut a few weeks ago. But some tweeters were surprised to discover that their opinions had made it into the following day’s headlines without their knowledge. When Melbourne-based illustrator Arran McKenna tweeted ‘Anyone watch Angry Boys last night? Felt a little like a retread, but I enjoyed it. Keen to see how it pans out’, he hardly expected to be quoted the following morning on the ABC News website.

‘It’s like they’ve been watching me in the shower,’ he said. ‘It’s just lazy above anything. I guess it’s different with something like a TV show because it’s an instant gauge of audience reaction, but it’s still weird.’ Granted, the article was about the social media response to the show, but should sources have been contacted for consent?

Social media is changing the content game

Another argument is that social media has pushed traditional newsmakers into hastening the process of getting stories ‘to print’ (or published online, as is the case these days). During coverage of natural disasters, Twitter in particular provides a detailed and accurate portrayal of events and allows journalists to access and disseminate information far more quickly than if they were required to seek out sources.

Opinion on the ways in which journalists should and should not use social media as a source seems to be directly related to the story they’re reporting. A much-dreaded task of many a young journalist is the ‘death knock’ – the act of attempting to get a quote from the family of someone who has died. Many journalists have a moral conflict towards this unpleasant aspect of the job, not to mention the intrusion it causes for a grieving family. Social media quotes are therefore increasingly used in lieu of ‘real’ quotes.

The relationship between journalists and social media is confusing at best – and is unlikely to be clearly defined until social media itself stops evolving. Which isn’t going to happen for the foreseeable future.


The Message is brought to you by Tick Yes – providing solutions for all your digital and content marketing needs.

Image source:



  • News & Views Don’t Forget to Pat the Dog

    Don’t Forget to Pat the Dog

    A few days ago I posted an article called The Stupidity of Silence where I suggested that ceasing all contact when someone doesn’t give you what you want is a really dumb strategy. Here’s another one. We’re looking to sell our house at the moment. Part of the process is interviewing real estate agents. Theirs is an incredibly competitive business where all they’re offering is reputation and the perceived ability to persuade people to buy. The first agent who came […]

    Read more →
  • Content Marketing How to Make Your Content Actionable

    How to Make Your Content Actionable

    Content is not a magical formula that will make your target audience find your product and then breathlessly buy from you. The power of actionable content comes from your ability to attract the right audience, enabling them to interact with you and then to elevate that relationship to the next level i.e. for them to become a customer. So, how do you make your content actionable? Most importantly, you must give the reader, viewer or listener a sense of how they […]

    Read more →
  • News & Views The Stupidity of Silence

    The Stupidity of Silence

    It always astounds me when people in business don’t follow-up with a simple thank you email or even a note – when was the last time you received a handwritten thank you note? – after we’ve had some type of interaction.

    Read more →
  • Email Marketing Features What you Need to Know About Email Marketing for Mobile

    What you Need to Know About Email Marketing for Mobile

    It’s no secret that smartphones and tablets can no longer be ignored by email marketers—and there aren’t many more marketers out there doing so. It is a massive part of customer communication and revenue, but do you know just how massive? The following statistics come from all corners of the globe, and from many different industries. While they keep changing everyday, some are quite shocking. Here’s a brief description of everything you need to know about the power of email […]

    Read more →
  • Digital Marketing Features How to Reduce Your Media Spend & Achieve Better Results

    How to Reduce Your Media Spend & Achieve Better Results

    Digital marketing has changed the media landscape forever and marketing budgets are being spread across channels – mainly digital – that previously didn’t exist. The problem is that optimisation is not as simple as it was before; if you’re not careful, your spend can get out of hand. By optimising each of your channels, you can reduce your media spend and achieve better results – all the while proving a positive return on investment (ROI) for every dollar you spend. […]

    Read more →
  • Features News & Views Digital Marketing Lessons To Be Learnt From Donald Trump

    Digital Marketing Lessons To Be Learnt From Donald Trump

    Donald Trump teaching you marketing lessons? Seriously? Yes, seriously. Love him or hate him, Donald Trump has made the race for the White House fascinating. And fascinating doesn’t happen by chance. Exceptional marketing combined with good old fashioned, in-your-face salesmanship are central to the success of his campaign – so far. So putting aside your opinion on his politics, let’s look at what can be learned from Trump’s ‘Making America Great Again’ campaign. Know Your Audience Contrary to the opinion […]

    Read more →
  • Digital Marketing Features How to avoid digital dead ends

    How to avoid digital dead ends

    Have you ever noticed that so-called ‘express lanes’ on the road or in stores are often slower than the normal lanes? While I know it’s easy to go on auto-pilot when performing mundane chores like driving or shopping, it amazes me that people so often follow the actual signs instead of reading the signs around them. Because we humans are inherently disengaged, conflicted or uncertain as to what we should do in many situations, we’re attracted to people and things […]

    Read more →
  • Social Media When the Social Media Circus Leaves Town

    When the Social Media Circus Leaves Town

    David Bowie died almost two months ago. Soon after, we posted about the tawdry British reality TV show making money from his ex-wife’s reactions. Inevitably, her presence on the show at the time and her response to the news created a social media firestorm. Focus, of course has moved on to the latest deaths, tragedies, political intrigues and sporting victories / defeats. But it’s worth pondering the enduring impact that not being news has on the people who were previously at the centre of […]

    Read more →
  • Entertainment News & Views Chris Rock’s Oscars Lessons for Marketers

    Chris Rock’s Oscars Lessons for Marketers

    Did you see Chris Rock at last night’s Oscars? Man, he nailed it: loose, funny, topical, irreverent, black. Hang on, what was that? Black? You can’t say that! That’s, that’s, well that’s racist! In isolation it’s jarring to refer to someone’s skin colour or any other personal feature when judging work they’ve just completed. Of course, it’s also completely irrelevant. But let’s back up a bit. This year’s Oscars were all about race. After the nominations were announced in January there […]

    Read more →
  • Entertainment News & Views Surreal Reality TV

    Surreal Reality TV

    Few of us over the age of 40 have not been saddened by the death of David Bowie this week. Whether you liked his music or not, he was undoubtedly an original talent who had a profound impact on much of the culture of the 70’s and 80’s. Contrast the outpouring of love and nostalgia we’re now seeing due to Bowie’s passing with what’s happening on UK’s Celebrity Big Brother. By sheer coincidence, Bowie’s ex-wife Angie is currently a ‘resident’ […]

    Read more →