Social media supports journalism, and that’s not fake news

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Illustration courtesy of Margot Heron

As a journalist, I am definitely biased. The rough texture of the newspaper gives me a sense of agency, hope and activism that I do not feel with most things. Journalism challenges the everyday world with its expository and critical authority. In an evolving world, journalists have begun to use the internet to promote their content. The field continues to grow and thrive in the modern day through our use of social media, which is just as valuable in its accessibility and collaboration as traditional methods of journalism.

Journalism is one of the most vital aspects of society. Some of the earliest journalists were from Rome circa 59 B.C. People recorded political and social events daily in the Acta Diurna, a gazette displayed in the city for everyone to read. Thus, journalism began as a form of storytelling used to spread the news to others about pressing issues. Today, people learn about the current state of other countries through journalism. Without it, we would not have learned that there was a Syrian war where innocent children were poisoned by a nerve agent. Or that 465,000 Syrians were killed, while 12 million people — more than half of the country’s population — have been forced out of their homes. We would not learn that terrorists killed 49 people in two mosques in New Zealand while they were worshipping. Without passionate, justice-driven, risk-taking journalists, people would not know about the realities of this world.

I have questioned whether social media has had a positive or negative impact on journalism. However, I am convinced that social media, despite its major flaws, goes hand-in-hand with journalism. Even The Occidental promotes its online content through social media. Every Wednesday, when The Occidental publishes an issue, I post my content on my FacebookTwitter, Snapchat and Instagram because I know that more people will read my pieces online than in print. In seconds, my followers have access to my journalistic content through my self-promotion on social media sites.

Social media allows us to access news in a quick and convenient way. Even better, it creates a space for conversations people wouldn’t have otherwise. Many journalists, as part of their job, are very active on platforms like Twitter, eager for productive “Twitter Fights.” I constantly refresh my page looking for a good “Twitter Fight.” By responding to journalists on social media, people can react to and discuss their journalistic content. Accessing news through social media allows people to become better informed on crucial issues, engage in activism and find their voices.

Before I realized the importance of social media in journalism, I, like many people, believed that social media was a lawless swamp where people could post whatever they want. Good journalists must cite their sources and verify their information, but on social media, this practice of reputable sourcing is not as common. “Fake news” is increasingly prevalent on these platforms, as people compose stories of events that have not actually occurred or completely change the context of legitimate news stories.

However, I did not realize we have control over the content we choose to consume. People also use social media to promote reputable news, which allows news to spread wider, faster and easier. In fact, in a 2017 Pew Reseach study, more than a fifth of participants said convenience was the most significant benefit to the news experience on social media. With more and more instances of “fake news,” we need to keep ourselves accountable and double-check the reputability of the content we promote on social media. Through media literacy and self-accountability, “fake news” will decrease and news will be spread faster and more accurately than ever.

The next time someone tells you journalism is a dying field, send them the link to this article. This way, you’ll be promoting journalism. The ability to press “tweet” or “post” is always at your fingertips, so share information truthfully, even if those truths are uncomfortable  that’s what leads to activism. The first step to any form of social justice is to be informed. Let’s be conscientious about the content we promote and spread on social media, because we are all journalists of the modern world.

Serena Pelenghian is a sophomore Critical Theory & Social Justice major. She can be reached at spelenghian@oxy.edu.