Twitter and Facebook are great tools for staying in touch with your friends, family, favorite basketball team or favorite pop star. They can even be used in a classroom setting, or as a way to get into contact with agencies at which you are seeking employment. One hundred and forty characters have become more important than ever.
In a world where 12 million people are checking their social media multiple times a day, it is important for journalists to be able to tweet and post and update statuses quickly, effectively and accurately.
One of the main concerns with the 24-hour news world that we live in is that journalists do not have sufficient time to fact-check their work before spewing it out into the online world. This absolutely cannot be the case. Regardless of whether it’s being put in print, on the television or on a blog, news needs to be accurate. There can be a thousand vigilante bloggers on the Internet spouting the news “as they see it,” but the CNN reporter putting her work into a Twitter update needs to be sure that her story is accurate, because in the end, her blog is supposed to be the reliable one.
Another hazard of social media becoming a part of the work place is that no one’s life is truly private anymore. You may lose your dream job if they check your Facebook and you’re doing a keg stand in your profile photo. Journalists (and everyone in general) need to know that what is put on the Internet is on it for good, no matter how many ways you try to delete it. This goes for personal moments (like that Christmas party that you blacked out at), but also for news. An inaccurate story may be perpetuated on the Internet forever, even if you delete it only moments after it was posted.
Facebook and Twitter are scary new tools that are becoming a major part of everyone’s lives, and so journalists must use them even if they don’t want to. They can be used for good as well as evil. Journalists can use them to increase awareness of a story that might not otherwise be seen. They can use them to increase the following of their news organization. But they have to know how to use them correctly. They have to be extra sure that everything they post is accurate, they must know that everything they post is permanent, and they must maintain a professional online appearance. One could say that social media is a necessary evil: it may be a hassle to have to be constantly conscious of your online presence, but it is a necessary hassle in a world that is now almost completely online.