University hosts Twitter chat on social media in journalism

By Irene Park, Daily Staff Reporter
Published December 5, 2014

The University hosted a live Twitter chat event Friday titled “The Power of Social Media in Journalism Today” with three panelists: Gregory Anderson, editorial director at Yahoo and Knight Wallace Fellow; Martha Jones, professor of history and Afroamerican and African studies; and Jennifer Calfas, 2015 Editor in Chief of The Michigan Daily.

Twitter users submitted their questions using the hashtag #UMichChat before and during the event, and the University Twitter account chose 15 questions out of the pool to ask the three panelists.

Questions covered a variety of topics within the theme of social media and journalism, such as how social media has changed modern journalism, the integrity of reporting through social media and the role of social media in the recent political events.

All three panelists agreed that social media provide important forums for journalism.

“To survive, journalism needs to go where the audience is,” Anderson wrote via his Twitter account. “Increasingly, that place is online and connected socially.”

Jones wrote that she is an avid user of social media to get the latest news and communicate with her students and colleagues.

“Twitter and Facebook are now my morning front page and headlines,” Jones wrote. “I’m on Twitter. A lot. That’s where my students are. And some colleagues too.”

Calfas said social media have expedited the spread of information, but it has come with a price.

“Social media allows information to spread to more people at a faster rate,” Calfas wrote. “(But it) runs the risk of spreading false information too quickly.”

However, Calfas also said that just because the reporting did not come from the more traditional outlets, does not mean that reporting via social media compromises integrity.

“Regardless of social media, journalism ethics are the same,” Calfas wrote.

In addition to faster spread of information, Anderson wrote that social media has opened doors to ordinary citizens to report stories as well.

Anderson also said that social media has the power to transform stories into actual political movements, as with the recent protests spurred by a grand jury’s decision not to a indict Ferguson police officer in the death of an unarmed Black teenager.

“It’s made it easier to organize protests,” Anderson wrote. “Online movements absolutely get real results.”

Jones added that social media has also played a role in organizing student protests at the University, referencing a protest that occurred Friday afternoon in the University’s Law Library.

“Students are now taking over the library where I’m working in protest,” Jones said. “That is the strength of Twitter!”

The three panelists were not the only ones who shared their opinions through the forum.

Matthew Adams, LSA social media manager, participated in the event and provided his own answers to the chosen questions. In an e-mail to the Daily, he said he sees social media as platforms for social interaction and engagement.

“I wanted to participate in #UMichChat because I value the medium of Twitter as a conversational space,” Adams wrote in the e-mail. “It’s the kind of conversation I would stop and observe if it were happening, say, after a lecture or a seminar.”

Nikki Sunstrum, the University’s social media director, wrote in an e-mail that the Twitter chat events provide opportunities for the University to to initiate conversations through social media.

“#UMichChat is intended to provide our social audiences unparalleled access and exclusive opportunities to converse with our leaders, experts and athletes. It is an opportunity to leverage the power of social media, open the channels of communication and lead thought-provoking dialogue for change,” she wrote.

Editor’s note: Given her involvement in the event, Managing News Editor and 2015 Editor in Chief Jen Calfas did not edit this article.