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The just announced Pulitzer awards have revealed the interesting changing face of the News Media industry as journalists and news outlets increasingly adopt information technology and social media tools.
The Tuscaloosa News (Ala) which won the breaking news category included its twitter feeds to its submission for the prestigious media award.
The paper covered the April 2011 tornado where 50 people were feared to have perished and at times used its website as a bulletin board where people could post their whereabouts and seek for the information of others.
The paper also used Google documents for come up with a database that proved instrumental in giving important updates and information on the devastation. In essence, the paper depended on the social media tools to report the calamity, and they did a good job at it too.com
Still on social media’s increasing penetration into news; a report recently released by the schools.com described social media as the “new news source” illustrating how social media is effectively replacing traditional journalism as a major news source.
In a revealing poll, it found that 50% of people learn about breaking news from social media platforms rather than traditional news sources like Television, Radio or Newspaper.
Of the social media platform, Facebook was the leading source with 59% of people turning to it for news, Twitter had 19.9%, YouTube 12.7% and Google+11% of people who used them as primary sources of news.
The report also indicates that 46% of people are getting their news from online sources; at least three times a week and more importantly, these findings indicate online news revenue has surpassed print newspaper revenue.
The report also lists some of the most remarkable breaking news items that have come to the public through social media. Among the breaking news include the Egyptian Uprising, protesters killed in Bahrain, Osama Bin Laden raid and death among others. The report, however also warns of the pitfalls of depending on social media as source of news
Back to Pulitzer Awards and the media trends set by information technology and social media, the Huffington Post Media, an online platform that aggregates and distributes news items, won in the category of national reporting for a 10 piece series on the struggles of wounded American soldiers from Afghanistan and Iraq when they return home.
The story “Beyond the Battle Field” was written by a veteran journalist David Wood who has worked for both the Time Magazine and the Los Angeles times and thus one would say applied the best practices in of traditional media as he wrote the story.
Huffington Post become the first online-only daily news outlet to win Pulitzer even though the non-profit investigative journalism organization Pro Publica became the first online outlet to win the prize in 2010 and again in 2011, its stories are normally published in partnership with traditional print newspapers as well.
Another pointer to the changing times is that the Awards submissions and evaluation are now being done exclusively digitally even though online news organizations have been eligible for the awards from 2009.
The 24 year-old cub reporter Sarah Ganim won the award for a local newspaper; The Patriot –News for reporting on the sex abuse allegations against Jerry Sandusky, former Penn State University assistant coach. Ganim certainly is among the youngest to receive the award; in 1985 Jackie Crosby at 23 was awarded in the specialized reporting category.
Breaking with tradition, an alternative newspaper Seattle Stranger was awarded the prize in feature writing for an item written by Eli Sanders, himself a veteran journalist.
The trend notwithstanding, it would be premature to state that social media is replacing traditional media. Rather, the trends indicate that journalists must, as a matter urgency, learn, integrate and adopt these new tools if they have to stay true to their trade.
The challenges that come with the use of social media in reporting also provide opportunities for journalists and traditional news outlets to delve deeper into news items. They should work on investigative, feature based news items that would provide an added value to what the immediacy and brevity that social media accords already.
In other words, the reportorial enterprise is becoming more and more integrated, democratic, inclusive and more engaging than ever before.
It is a trend that is not only egalitarian in its orientation but also more democratic; where all people, reporters at the national and international levels might just have fair shot at coming up with award-winning news item!
There is already strong indications that media integration ( new and old media) effectively complement each other with new technology and social media having a strong leverage in the future of news media if we pay close attention to where most revenue is coming from.