10 questions from a student: How has social networking transformed journalism? (Now with transcription)

I’ve decided to respond to student questions now via video. The latest collection are from Jess Barlow, and are copied below. The video responses are split into three videos – and there is a transcription of the responses at the end:

  1. Which online tools and resources do you use to keep up to date with breaking news stories, and why do you use these?
  2. Do you keep a personal Blog and if so how regularly do you update it, and why?
  3. How important is Blogging to you personally, and in your opinion for online news production?

4. As technology has become more advanced, has your role as a journalist, or your computing skills had to ‘adapt’ in any way?

5. Do you feel it necessary to ‘keep up’ with changes in technology and how do such changes affect your working methods?

6. (As a journalist) do you feel challenged by audience interaction through comment, through Blogging and social networking sites?

7. How significant is citizen journalism in today’s news climate and what do you make of the growth of online reporting by the general public?

8. What do you make of on line networking tools such as Myspace and Twitter, in reference to their role in news production alongside recognised news websites?

9. What are you thoughts on the latest online trend ‘twitter’, do you use this service, and if so, why do you feel the need to ‘twitter’?

10. If you are familiar with ‘twitter’, what are your thoughts on its ability as a tool for breaking news? (for both journalists and the general public).

That links I mention are:

UPDATE: Jess has transcribed my responses, so for those who want to search, or copy and paste, here is what I said in those videos:

Interview with Paul Bradshaw
Senior Lecturer in Online Journalism at Birmingham City University
Author of Online Journalism Blog
Freelance Online Journalist


I heavily use RSS feeds, probably around a 100 on journalism and online journalism alone. I have a very specific set of news feeds that come to me through blog lines. This is the main place I obtain breaking news from, having said that I have been using these less and less and more and more I have mainly picking up things through twitter.

You could argue that twitter is a social filter that is pushing news to me, these are people that are reading interesting things, they share my interests and they are recommending interesting articles.

My RSS reader and RSS feeds, and a bunch of things from blogs, and mainly things from blogs, twitter, email mailing lists, so I obtain emailing alerts from places from Techcrunch, I also try and buy a national newspaper on a weekend particularly on a Saturday and Sunday (tabloid)

Breaking news stories- is twitter is where I go for that. I use tweetscan, alpha twitter, twitt(URL)ly, which tell me which are the most popular links.


Yes I do, if you can call the online journalism blogs, maximum of three updates per day. I update it this regularly because I feel it needs to be, I update it as and when I feel I need to.


Blogging is enormously important, it’s become really one of the most important aspects of my professional life, it has taken me to places that I otherwise wouldn’t have been, and it has introduced me to people who I otherwise wouldn’t have met. And it has completely transformed my knowledge and experience and my opinion on how you do things journalistically, organizationally, things are changing enormously, and I think you need to be doing it in order to understand what is changing.

I think that it is incredible important for exactly the same reasons because organisationally the possibilities and the economics are changing so an understanding of that is really important in terms of the management of the news organization. Culturally, the exchange between journalists and readers has changed, the old thing of ‘from a lecture to a conversation’. Journalists really need to really get to grips with that or they are going to lose their audiences. There has been a massive power shift in terms of distribution, it is readers predominately, and to lesser extent journalists themselves, who distribute the news, you don’t have a distribution network that you did with print newspapers. In that sense having a blog is a vital part for your distribution strategy, it’s very important because it is you as a journalist who is distributing the news and it also your readers to distribute it as well. So I think blogging is crucial, or at least being part of the conversation is.


Yes, a very big yes.

My role as a journalist has become very much one of knowing how to use certain online tools, when the Chinese earthquake happened knowing where to go to find that information, knowing how to translate this information from Chinese into English, all these things were really important of terms of news gathering. Another key thing has been learning how to filter that information so that you only gather the most important information. Also I think that my role as a journalist has changed, it’s really more of a social role now, and I think that’s really key, and to focus so much on the technology can be misleading. Because as a result, or partly through that technology we have been able to develop different relations with people, we have been able to organize better, and that’s why I have made the online journalism blog a group blog, because I think as a network we are more powerful, in terms of what we can achieve, we have got a combination of skills, experiences and knowledge and contacts that we can tap into. I have a facebook group, and the way that the facebook group taps into what we do as well is really interesting, so that (facebook) has really changed my role as a journalist, and I find myself being a conduit, as much as a seeker of information, the agenda is not necessarily set by me, and that is really important.

SO yes I have had to adapt enormously as a journalist and in terms of computing skills, and also in terms of publishing, all the ‘nuts and bolts’ of things, like CSS, PHP, and WordPress plug ins, all of those have become important.


Obviously my job as a blogger and as a freelance journalist is to know what’s happening technologically, so professionally in that sense and as a lecturer I need to know what is going on. In terms of affecting my working methods I try a lot of different things, I mean I’m recording this on video, which I wouldn’t have thought of doing 6 months ago, but I am finding that an interesting way to vary my working method and find out a quicker way to respond to things like this interview, and also it’s a different way of communicating, and I am interested in developing that skill. So I do feel it is necessary that I keep up to date with changes in technology.


I feel empowered by it, enthused because someone is listening first of all, and someone perhaps feels that I can help them, and there is that kind of social support network. Journalism traditionally can be quite a solitary job and now if you know how to ‘do it’, it is quite the opposite, journalism should be a very very social job in terms of seeking support and help, tips and so on. Journalists are ‘social creatures’ but the actual act of journalism can be quite solitary. Now that isn’t the case, the act of journalism is a dialogue, so that’s not challenging at all, its quite refreshing.


I don’t think that citizen journalism is very significant in today’s news climate; I think culturally, news organizations are still actually quite resistant to citizen journalism. It is mostly treated as tokenistic and is shunted into a ghetto. The kind of ‘and finally slot’ on TV news, or ‘send us your emails, send us your texts’. I don’t think that it’s very significant, and it is treated differently depending on whether it’s send us your pictures or whether it’s someone has this amazing shot of this amazing event. It is treated very different. I think that the growth in reporting by the general public is very much needed, what we are seeing is a blurring between the differences between publishing and conversation, and that leads to a number of mistakes. People talk about blogs as if it is publishing but it is actually conversation, people talking to each other having open diaries and things like that, most of the time. Reporting by the general public isn’t what is really happening, mostly it is them talking about what is happening to them, to their social network. And that has always happened really, it’s just that it is more visible and it’s easier to do now.

It is easier for me to talk to 500 people on twitter that I would otherwise not be able to get in touch with. I think that ‘reporting’ by the general public is brilliant, its made things visible, its made people be able to connect more easily, its made people less isolated, its given people access to information that they wouldn’t previously have had. The fact that you could read what someone in Iraq was experiencing during the Iraq War was incredibly important, it wasn’t just what the media decided you could have access too, and you could access these people quite easily if you knew where to look. So I think it’s a refreshing complement to traditional editorial judgements.


Myspace has become more of a music based social networking site than anything else, or a youth based one, twitter obviously, I have already mentioned has a number of uses news wise.

It’s very good for news gathering in terms of elements of serendipity to what you encounter as a journalist, so just being part of that kind of constant flow of conversation and ideas and news is very important and that is what twitter is very good for, it is good for shouting out for ideas or input onto a story, ideas and information, and it is obviously a very good publishing tool in terms of publishing to mobile and publishing news alerts. I have done quite a long article for Journalism.co.uk on how you can use twitter for journalism and I have written god knows how many posts about twitter.

Facebook is hugely useful, again on a number of levels, The Washington post have created a couple of widgets that users can embed in facebook that do various things surrounding political news, and I think that’s really interesting. I think that the main thing with online networking tools is their potential for distribution, and I think that that’s the main implication, in terms of how news gets passed around. In terms of newsgathering, it’s a networking tool, it’s a way of quickly finding either individual experts for example, it’s very useful for that, or for finding groups of specialist interests. There is a blog called slewfootsnoop, which has a post pitting Facebook and LinkedIn head to head in terms of newsgathering and that is really interesting.

9) Yes I do use twitter, and I have been since January 2007, although I didn’t use it properly until late September when I was at a conference, and I had something to twitter about, and since then I have kind of used it increasingly, in particularly in the last couple of months as I think there has been a shift in terms of the numbers of people that I know of, that are on twitter, and because those people are on twitter, I am using it a lot more in terms of conversation and social networking, before then it was very much a publishing tool, from live events. Now it is very much more of a social tool, and I twitter far more often. It is also more of a newsgathering tool (now).


I feel the need to twitter because I have less time to blog and because I used to blog about things like ‘look at this’, or ‘look at that’, and I don’t really do that anymore. And I haven’t done for a year or so, but twitter has enabled me to start doing that again, and say read this article or here’s a really good site, or try this tool out. So if I can sum it up in 140 characters then I do. And related to that I would like to mention Seesmic which is also useful for [saying more about things] than I would on Twitter, but still things that I wouldn’t necessarily write a blog post on. So it is useful for social networking and it is useful for distribution. [Twitter is] useful for being part of a conversation of finding out what’s happening. And that is how I found out about the Chinese earthquake. The first thing I did was log on to my twitter account and it happened to be being talked about by Robert Scoble.


The main thing about twitter for me is its integration with mobile, if you’re on the spot and something is happening then you don’t even need to boot up your laptop you can just text message to your twitter account, and its live. That’s happened on a number of occasions, one of a famous example is the Egyptian student who was arrested, twittered the fact on his mobile phone which was immediately spread around, and the wheels were set in motion before he even reach the police station affectively. So that a great example would be the Chinese earthquake again, Robert Scoble, was twittering about it three minutes before the US geological society had it. We should bear in mind this is a very westernized look on the earthquake, in china, the news spread quickly through the likes of QQ which is kind of an instant messaging tool in China.
It’s a way of getting news out very quickly, it goes out to people’s mobiles so I think it is a really strong tool for news.

9 thoughts on “10 questions from a student: How has social networking transformed journalism? (Now with transcription)

  1. Jessica Barlow

    Thankyou for your answers paul.

    They are going to be agreat help in my findings.

    If any ‘established’ online bloggers/journalists are reading this comment and interested in given their own insight to aid my dissertation research then please do not hesitate to contact me.

    Thanks again paul.


  2. Tim Burden

    There’s a reason why the Web is a better platform for news, and video ain’t it. Searchability, ability to cut and paste snippets, etc. Just sayin’.

  3. Rick Hancock

    I also teach online journalism on the college level here in the United States. I’ll certainly keep tabs on what you have to say and will refer students to your blog. I found many of the questions posed to you of particular interest to me as both an academic and as a journalist. While many people believe technology is behind the growth of online journalism I’ll always argue it’s the ability for everyday people to engage, comment, respond and create content that is the real backbone of this movement.

  4. paulbradshaw Post author

    @Tim totally agree about video (see https://onlinejournalismblog.wordpress.com/2006/10/13/analysis-video-journalism-is-the-easy-option/), which is why I asked Jess to transcribe this (the post now contains that transcription). However, given the choice between not writing anything and publishing on video, I’ll choose the latter. I also think video offers some forms of interactivity that text doesn’t – in particular, increased sense of community; the ability for people to comment via a medium they’re more comfortable with; and ease of posting via mobile phone or laptop (e.g. Qik; Bambuser).

  5. Dan

    Great answers, thank you. Another question – it’s not quite social media but I’ve noticed there are some online syndication communities/marketplaces (e.g. The Syndicated News, etc). Do you think those are good resources for freelance journalists?

  6. paulbradshaw

    Any extra resource is a good one – I’d be recommending journalists to be creating their own syndications/aggregators through RSS readers and things like xFruits and Yahoo! Pipes.


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