Journalism and social media – a complicated relationship


“News is only the first rough draft of history”

This is a quote seen in many newsrooms across the world. Even with the invention of social media platforms where what is happening right now, is posted for everyone to see, I believe those words still stand true.

The big social media platforms are both a blessing and a curse. We garner a lot of news from seeing what people are talking about, posting and commenting on. We also post a lot of our finished work on these platforms for the world to see.

The downside is the news you are sharing, 30 minutes, 1 hour or 6 hours later, may already be known by the public you serve.

Social media has increasingly become the place where journalists turn to find what we call “streeters” in the industry. The hard working individual who we used to (and some of us still do) find on main street to talk to, are now found on the internet.

When we find the individuals viewpoint that helps us with a story, or a comment that explains the feelings of the masses, we as journalists may use it. Sometimes we inform the person we are going to do so, but it’s not required by law.

Under the Canadian Copyright Act, the fair dealings section allows journalists to use any tweet as long as it is relevant to the story we are working on. The only thing we are required to do is name the person and the source which is easily done.

A lot of the terms and conditions for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc. read, in layman’s terms, once you post it, it’s fair game.

So remember the childhood lesson most of us were taught, “be careful what you say” or “if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all”. They probably stand more true now than ever before. Because if what you are saying can help us write “the first rough draft of history” inside a newsroom you may become famous and not even expect it.