2
0
1
9

Seeing social media for what it is

“What’s the return on investment here? For each hour spent using social media for work, what, precisely, is gained? And what is lost?”

2009 began with a touchstone moment for social media and journalism. When a plane went down in the Hudson River, Twitter was first to have the information, beating mainstream media by about 15 minutes. Journalists were not pleased to note that the first and most widely shared photograph of the incident was captured not by one of their own but by a ferry passenger. The (blurry, smudged, unfortunately vertical) photograph shows people scrambling out of US Airways flight 1549 and into rafts on the Hudson River.

The photograph went viral, and traffic was so intense it crashed TwitPic’s servers. I was working as a city editor at a small daily newspaper at the time, and my memory of this moment is that it galvanized interest in social media generally and Twitter specifically — not just in my newsroom but in professional circles across the globe. It was one thing if people wanted to use Twitter to post pictures of their lunch, but we weren’t going to let them use it to beat us at our own game.

In 2019, a decade later, journalists will finally come to see social media for what it really is — and what it isn’t. It’s a wonder for finding people and seems to open the door for non-elite sources. It’s a brilliant mechanism for keeping tabs on what (some) people are talking about, so much so that use of Twitter seems to influence news judgment. It’s a useful promotional tool, and reporters are taking advantage.

But the longer we study journalism’s love/hate relationship with social media, the more we begin to wonder whether it isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Reputation management forces reporters to project a strictly professional identity online. It provides great opportunities for audience engagement, but journalists interact mostly with each other, and female journalists especially face rampant harassment there. It’s a massive time-suck, with devotion to social media measured in hours per day, not least because its use is mandated by upper management. It’s not a business model. Neither its conception nor its realization is inherently journalistic, despite the best efforts of its executives to pitch it as such. And of course, you may have heard that its mechanisms and platforms are routinely gamed by malicious actors, a practice sometimes called “dark participation.”

The key question for journalists of 2019 to answer is this: What’s the return on investment here? For each hour spent using social media for work, what, precisely, is gained? And what is lost? This goes far beyond metrics of reach and audience, which are too easily spun to hide deficits in trust. Instead, it forces journalists to examine what they’re not doing as they chase shares and likes across a sea of profiles and timelines. This is a question of efficiency, of fiscal responsibility, of professional control, and more — but mostly it’s a question of identity.

I recently discussed social media practices in contemporary newsrooms with my journalism students at Temple University. After hearing of metrics, branding, engagement, and so on, they asked me, somewhat incredulously: “Is this what journalists do?” That, I said, is a very good question.

Logan Molyneux is an assistant professor of journalism at Temple University.

Darryl Holliday   Let’s talk about power (yours)

Jenée Desmond-Harris   It finally sinks in that some people aren’t white

Jake Shapiro   Podcasting is media’s slow food movement

LaToya Drake   Listen up: New stories, new storytellers

Elizabeth Dunbar   Local reporters reflect on what’s not important

Simon Galperin   After capitalism’s fire, journalism’s secondary succession

Chase Davis   We can acknowledge what we don’t know

Mike Caulfield   Ditch the media literacy cynicism and get to work

Rachel Glickhouse   Newsrooms will prioritize audience needs

Claire Wardle   Forget deepfakes: Misinformation is showing up in our most personal online spaces

Zuzanna Ziomecka   News leadership gets an overdue upgrade

Celeste LeCompte   Local news needs local conversation to survive

Rachel Davis Mersey   Local news goes minimalist

Mario García   The rise of content “pilots”

Johannes Klingebiel   We all grow hooves

Whitney Phillips   Our information systems aren’t broken — they’re working as intended

Sarah Alvarez   Simplify and redistribute

Laura E. Davis   More access, but not that kind

Sarah Marshall   A return to destination journalism

Christa Scharfenberg and Vickie Baranetsky   The year of the lawsuit

Steve Grove   A reckoning for tech’s work with news

Zainab Khan   Publishers whose products can stand up to social media giants will win

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen   A long, slow slog, with no one coming to the rescue

Elva Ramirez   News — but make it cinematic

John Biewen   Podcasts keep getting better

Steve Myers   From trying to cover it all to covering what matters

Kjerstin Thorson   Time to get mad about information inequality (again)

M. Scott Havens   Time to swing for the fences

P. Kim Bui   The misfits become the bosses

Stephanie Edgerly   It’s time to understand the un-audience

james Wahutu   Think 2018 was bad? Wait until you see 2019

Robert Hernandez   Racists and sexists get replaced

Kelsey Proud   Journalism becomes the escape

Becca Aaronson   From bridge roles to product thinkers

Cory Bergman   Journalism as a technology service

Mandy Jenkins   Fight the urge to run away from social media

Jeff Chin   We detox from Chartbeat

Umbreen Bhatti   The story doesn’t end for the people we quote

Almar Latour   Reported facts, weaponized in service of action

Alexis Lloyd & Matt Boggie   The year product leads media

Sue Cross   Return of the water cooler

Jack Riley   Facebook refugees, from ad revenue to news habits

Francesco Zaffarano   Towards a rethinking of journalism on social media

Bill Grueskin   Toward a symphony model for local news

Errin Haines   Say it with me: Racism

John Saroff   The pivot to reader revenue’s unintended consequences

Stefanie Murray   Local news wakes up and starts collaborating

Jonas Kaiser   Catching up with “Neuland”

Nicholas Jackson   More transparency around newsroom decisions

Masuma Ahuja   Make foreign coverage less foreign

Seema Yasmin   We will create our own spaces

Callie Schweitzer   The rise of the conveners

Tyler Fisher   This is journalism’s do-or-die moment

Mat Yurow   Content competition from the tech companies

Eric Ulken   The year you actually start to like your CMS

Frank Chimero   Leave the phone at home and put news on your wrist

Alberto Cairo   A year of uncertainty and confidence

Juleyka Lantigua-Williams   Podcasting battles East Coast bias

Kate Myers   Journalism continues to be bad for democracy

Greg Emerson   Power to the user

Jesse Holcomb   We’ll get better at making the case for local journalism

Glyn Mottershead and Martin Chorley   When a tech company pulls the plug on your story

Talia Stroud   Engaging people across lines of difference

Josh Schwartz   A pullback from platforms and a focus on product

Tamar Charney   Seriously: What do you do for people?

Jared Newman   AI-generated fakes launch a software arms race

Heba Aly   The rise of international nonprofit news

Borja Bergareche Sainz de los Terreros   Entering a more balanced era

Ståle Grut   A new dawn for 3D tech in journalism

Marie Shanahan   Newsrooms take the comments sections back from platforms

Dave Burdick   Seeing our blind spots

Shannon McGregor   More bogus embedded tweets in our stories

Zizi Papacharissi   Old interface, say hello to the new interface

Steve Henn   Smart speakers get smarter

Catalina Albeanu   Being responsible for what we don’t know

Tshepo Tshabalala   Ahead of African elections, unlock partnerships with fact-checkers

Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Readers are only getting started

Julia Rubin   Meeting people where they are

Julie Posetti   The year of the fight back

Pia Frey   You can’t solve a crisis without treating it as a crisis

Nico Gendron   Reaching Generation Z beyond the coasts

Geetika Rudra   The year of actionable (local) journalism

Pablo Boczkowski   Reimagining the media for post-institutional times

Nisha Chittal   The homepage makes a comeback

Heather Bryant   We are responsible for how we use our power

Adam B. Ellick   Video forensic reporting goes mainstream — and local

Andrew Donohue   Voting rights becomes the new climate change

Mike Isaac   The old exit doors for digital media companies are closing

Gabriel Snyder   Journalism doesn’t fit well in a funnel

Colleen Shalby   Representation becomes more than a talking point

Ruth Palmer and Benjamin Toff   From news fatigue to news avoidance

Cindy Royal   For journalism curriculum to change, its faculty needs disruption

Sarah Stonbely   Mapping the local news ecosystem — with scale but detail

Jonathan Gill   Publishers build a common tech platform together

Cherian George   Fake news wins in Asia

Manoush Zomorodi   Tech will do for information overload what it did for mindfulness

Peter Cunliffe-Jones   The focus of misinformation debates shifts south

Don Day   Timewalls and other reader revenue experiments

Alyssa Zeisler   We expand what (and how and who) we serve

Joshua Darr   The nationalization of political news will accelerate

Meredith Artley   Huge demand for…anything but politics

Sue Robinson   Reporters go on the offensive

Ariel Zirulnick   Participation gets professional

Patrick Butler   Measuring impact will increase audience trust

Libby Bawcombe   Haikus of the news

Betsy O'Donovan and Melody Kramer   The most beautiful sentence in 2019 is “No.”

An Xiao Mina   The death of consensus, not the death of truth

Moreno Cruz Osório   Damaged credibility and a new threat in Brazil

Candis Callison   Learn from Indigenous journalists on covering climate change

Hossein Derakhshan   The news is dying, but journalism will not — and should not

Gideon Lichfield   Goodbye attention economy, we’ll miss you

Carolina Guerrero   Spanish-language audio blows up

Angilee Shah   The year news orgs say “yes” to real leaders

Thomas Hanitzsch   The rise of tribal journalism

Ole Reißmann   The rise of vertical storytelling

Rodney Gibbs   A bright — and young — year for audio

Joanne McNeil   Building a digital hospice

Joe Amditis   Give the audience a seat at the table

Linda Solomon Wood   The year of the climate reporter

Amy Schmitz Weiss   Local news isn’t where you thought it was

Shalabh Upadhyay   A culture clash on India’s growing Internet

Rick Berke   The year of loyalty

Emma Carew Grovum   The year of the loyal reader

Winny de Jong   Data journalism goes undercover

Seth C. Lewis   The gap between journalism and research is too wide

Elisabeth Goodridge   Yes, they signed up — but our job’s not over

Taylor Lorenz   Personal branding is more powerful than ever

Axie Navas   The traffic hunt, CMS battle, and magazine identity crises loom

Rebecca Lee Sanchez   We are all actors in the running rampant of political theater

Renan Borelli   Developing loyalty means developing your talent

Jennifer Dargan   You don’t build diversity through one-off training sessions

Amy King   We should listen to the kids (especially on Instagram)

Craig Newmark   The end of “loudspeakers for liars”

Jesse Brown   Canada’s subsidy for news backfires

Annie Rudd   A more intimate aesthetic of politics — on Insta

Elite Truong   What do we owe the next generation?

Simon Rogers   Data journalism becomes a global field

Knight Foundation   A year of local collaboration

A.J. Bauer   The coming splintering of conservative media

Ben Werdmuller   The platform tide is turning

Millie Tran   There is no magic — you’ve got this

Salem Solomon   Correcting our corrections

Eric Nuzum   The year of the DIY podcast network

Jim Friedlich   Meet Citizen Kane 2.0

Renée Kaplan   Our future could lie within our own organizations

John Garrett   You can’t raise prices forever

Elizabeth Bramson-Boudreau   A more sincere definition of “community”

Hearken   Pivot to people

Kyra Darnton   A shift to depth in video

Nikki Usher   Three ways national media will further undermine trust

Robin Kwong   Tech shouldn’t be the only field pollinating “news nerds”

Frank Mungeam   Tonight at 11: News, sports, and climate change

Kristen Muller   Local news fails — in a good way

Adam Thomas   In Europe, foundations invest in news

Michael Grant   More newsrooms experiment their way to success

Justin Kosslyn   Text hits a tipping point

Mariana Moura Santos   From pageviews to impact

Matthew Pressman   The battle over objectivity intensifies

Francesco Marconi   The year of iterative journalism

Mike Rispoli and Craig Aaron   Government funds local news — and that’s a good thing

Victor Pickard   We will finally confront systemic market failure

Kevin D. Grant   A year to embrace journalism as public service

Michael Rain   The year of the culturally relevant curator

Soo Oh   Just showing our work isn’t enough

Reyhan Harmanci   Selling more stories to Hollywood

Angèle Christin   Algorithms and the reflexive turn

Raney Aronson-Rath   We learn “digital” doesn’t have to mean “short”

Adam Smith   Platforms will have to help rebuild trust in news

Joel Konopo   Influencers become the new liberated power in Africa

Jeremy Gilbert   AI finally becomes helpful

Dheerja Kaur   A focus on problems, not platforms

Rubina Madan Fillion   Fighting the reality of deepfakes

Matt Waite   “I went to Node.js because I wished to live deliberately”

Alexandra Borchardt   Newsrooms need to build trust with their journalists, not just the audience

Bill Adair   Another year fighting Trump’s falsehoods

Dan Shanoff   Bet on sports gambling

Elizabeth Jensen   Going where the Acela can’t take you

Jonathan Stray   More algorithmic accountability reporting, and a lot of it will be meh

Efrat Nechushtai   Journalism wants to be your friend, not your teacher

Tushar Banerjee   Interactive ads will be the new face of display advertising

Brian Moritz   The subscription-pocalypse is about to hit

Nathalie Malinarich   Video — yes, video

Kainaz Amaria   We consider who’s behind the camera

Kawandeep Virdee   Media wants to take care of you

Jean Friedman Rudovsky   Cross-newsroom collaborations strengthen communities

Ben Smith   The pendulum starts to swing back

Ernie Smith   The year we step back from the platform

Monique Judge   Committing to the truth, calling out lies

Carrie Brown-Smith   Advocating a healthy civic life is no journalistic crime

Alexandra Svokos   Good luck convincing us millennials to pay

Heather Chaplin   Agree we’re partisan — for the democratic system

Andrew Ramsammy   The great re-pivot to audio

Cristi Hegranes   A year to invest in the security of local journalists

Matt Skibinski   Quality and reliability are the new currencies for publishers

Tim Carmody   Unlocking the commons

Rishad Patel   A design system for responsible publishing

Carl Bialik   Fatigued news consumers will pay more for less news

Matt Karolian   Publishers come to terms with being Facebook’s enablers

Rebecca Searles   From silos to Swiss Army knife teams

Andrea Faye Hart   Doing less harm, not just more good

Charo Henríquez   Pivot to journalism

Peter Bale   Venture capital runs out of patience

Mandy Velez   Putting the social back in social media

Logan Molyneux   Seeing social media for what it is

Lauren Katz   Community becomes a core newsroom value