Whether we use Facebook to tell the world that we finally aced that exam we’ve been stressing about, or we detail a great day with friends on Snapchat, social media serves as both a way to connect, as well as a viable source for breaking news in both our lives and in the world around us. Social media has recreated the way we look at reporting, revolutionizing citizen journalism, which in many ways has helped provide first-hand accounts of events that eventually turn into news. Through tweets, statuses, images and videos, people are taking to the Internet to tell the world their own version of the news, and naturally, it spreads like wildfire.
According to a poll from the Pew Research Center in 2014, Facebook leads the way as the top social media site from which people receive news. Sixty-four percent of adults polled use the site, and of those, 30 percent said that they usually find out news from Mark Zuckerberg’s brain-child before consulting other outlets. YouTube and Twitter were also popular among adults, with 10 percent and 8 percent, respectively, admitting to using the sites to get news.
I believe the two best social media sites to get news from are Facebook and Twitter. Now that Facebook comes with its nifty news ticker on the side of the home page, you can see the most popular news topics of the day, as well as corresponding websites that provide you with the most up-to-date information on that topic. Twitter has the trending topics tab, and you can also find the latest updates on a story by typing a keyword into the search bar and going to the “top” tweets or “all” tweets about the topic. This will give you the most popular tweets based on retweets and favorites, or display the most recent tweets as they roll in real-time.
Need an example of the power of social media as a platform to discover news? In 2011, a man in Abbottabad, Pakistan, wrote his reaction to the sound of helicopters and explosions outside his window in a series of tweets. It turns out that he inadvertently confirmed the news of the raid and consequent death of the world’s most wanted terrorist — Osama bin Laden. Soon after, he said he was asked by many news outlets to give his reaction and comment on what he heard. If it weren’t for social media, many people would not have learned of the news in real time. Also, for fans of entertainment, news of singer Whitney Houston’s death was broken over Twitter by a few users before traditional news outlets caught wind of it.
Of course, you can’t always trust social media. You have to be extremely careful when reading news on social media, which means staying away from parody accounts and not always believing everything you read. Common sense is important when identifying fabrication in a story. Instead, try to find reliable news sources and their social media pages, such as the Associated Press, The New York Times or USA Today. They will, more or less, provide you with reliable information that continues to update as stories develop.
If you want to find out about a celebrity, it isn’t too difficult to find information straight from their pages or other highly visited gossip feeds like TMZ.
All in all, social media is becoming the new frontier when it comes to receiving news. You just have to know how to find the right information and choose reliable sources.
Senior journalism major
Printed in the 04/22/15 issue.