Experts Weigh Pros and Cons of Social Media has been conducting an ongoing interview series on the current and future role of journalism and social media. In previous posts for PBS MediaShift, I shared some of the insights we've gathered about the future of journalism, and the skills that will be required of future journalists.

In this installment, experts weigh on the impact social media has had on the media industry, and the way that journalists relate to their audiences. Overall, experts agreed that social media helps journalists:

  • Have more frequent two-way communication with news consumers, and thus develop stronger relationships with their readership.
  • Promote themselves by creating their own personal brand.
  • Find an array of news sources and information in real-time, and stay updated on new developments.
  • Easily promote content across multiple platforms, while at the same time reaching a wider audience.
  • Do on-the-spot reporting by making video and photography more accessible and inexpensive.

Experts Weigh In

"I can't understand why so many sectors are going kicking and screaming from the industrial age. News organizations have been reporting the change for decades, so what's the surprise? There is no shock that newspapers and magazines are failing; the model of printed news is being transformed into a new relationship model of information. Consumer markets, political conversations and everyday decision-making are being driven more and more by content in social media. Did news not get the memo that everyone wants to be a reporter?" -- Val Marmillion, president of Marmillion + Company Strategic Communications

"Social media are value neutral; their main virtue is the promise of democratic communication. This brings along with it all of the difficulties of democratic society...incivility, bullying, bias, prejudice, privatization, power struggles. These problems aren't a reason to dismiss or fear social media platforms; they're a challenge to each of us to fight for parity, transparency, access and openness." -- Jessica Clark, director for the Future of Public Media Project for the Center for Social Media at American University, and MediaShift contributor

"Twitter's brevity, its inherent capacity to reflect and create chaos, and to do so instantly and without verification, does not suggest that it has the power to create the kind of narrative that sustains real revolutionary action." -- Trevor Butterworth, editor of


"Too much information bouncing around at the speed of thought leads to too much information erroneously being 'reported' or accepted as 'fact.' This has only accelerated the pressure to be 'first,' often at the expense of being 'right.' But perhaps even more dangerous is that the increasing proliferation of choices means that news consumers can choose to focus exclusively on 'infotainment,' and thus disengage from serious coverage of critical issues." -- Matt Hinckley, assistant dean for journalism and student media at Richland College

"At a joint National Press Club/Atlanta Press Club event a while back, I asked this question of the panel: In the future, how will people know what is a journalistic story and what is a paid, biased or fictitious post? I said I was concerned that young people may not know the difference. The panelists' answer was to encourage journalistic literacy programs, which is a good idea. But the most telling moment came when a journalism student approached me afterward and said young people can tell the difference; he's more worried about people in the older generation like his mother, who can't tell a scam email from the real thing." -- Terri Thornton, owner of Thornton Communications

"I strongly disagree that social media represent a dumbing down of America. It's the's a way for us to become more informed, more connected and overall less ignorant. It's a way for us to experience different lives, different worlds and different points of view in a way that's never been possible, quite literally, in the history of the world. To call this tremendous capacity and facility to share information a 'dumbing down' is to miss the forest for the trees." -- Sasha Pasulka, blogger and founder of

Rob Salkowitz.jpg

"People who approach political discourse from the perspective of reading blogs and engaging in online debates via social networks -- Twitter and so on -- tend to value authenticity in those interactions, and are less patient with the niceties of the one-to-many broadcast model of communication...Members of the millennial generation in particular find the pomposity and stuffiness of traditional media less engaging than the give-and-take of social channels" -- Rob Salkowitz, author of "Young World Rising: How Youth, Technology and Entrepreneurship are Changing Global Business."

"One particular advantage of social media is that they help a reporter see the intellectual and social network of a source. For example, in Twitter I can see whom you are following and who is following you. I can see what you have re-tweeted and what links you have selected. Therefore, I can understand more fully your social context." -- Jerry Zurek, professor of English and communication department chair at Cabrini College

"This is a new way, an emerging way, and now a pervasive way. So when you jump in this pool, you have to jump in all the way. And that means, you have to listen, you have to participate, you need to contribute value as part of those relationships. And the reason you have to do that is because if you are not, your competitor probably is." -- David Kissel, partner of the Zocalo Group

"Social media is a good tool for publishers to expand content reach, but it won't save the fundamental business model of journalism at its core." -- Mitch Joel, president of Twist Image, author, and social media expert.

"Social media isn't a fad; it's changed the way people share and consume content. The web has allowed people to create their own online neighborhoods and elect leaders to speak for them. That's something journalists are going to have to really take into consideration. It's a new audience." -- Lisa Barone, chief branding officer of Outspoken Media, Inc.

"To be sure, social media are a frightening phenomenon to incumbents in the press, in politics and in the media. To the incumbents, social media are profoundly disruptive because of how they obviate their ownership of the 'choke point' in the communication channel. Their power is based on control of scarcity: Scarce resources, capital, intellectual property, and modes of production and distribution." -- Larry Elin, associate professor, S.I. Newhouse School, Syracuse University


"An active democracy is a successful democracy. As social media platforms engage voters in the political system, our democracy thrives. The risk, however, is that special interest groups have a significant opportunity to skew the conversation in their favor. While regular users have the ability to contribute to the conversation, few are motivated enough to do so. That allows motivated subgroups to manipulate the conversation and portray an inaccurate picture of the most important issues." -- Patrick Schwerdtfeger, author of "Webify your Business: Internet Secrets for the Self-Employed."

This article was co-written by Kurt Schilligo, a University Partnership Program intern.

Sandra Ordonez calls herself a web astronaut who has been helping organizations navigate the internet since 1997. Currently, she helps run, a collaborative online forum that gathers interviews from today's top leaders in the hopes of finding tomorrow's solutions. Since December 2008, the site has been conducting a Future of Journalism interview series. Sandra also heads up the Facebook page, "Bicultural and Multicultural People Rule." Previously, she was the Communications Manager for Wikipedia. She graduated from American University with a double degree in International Relations and Public Relations.

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Twitter Adds Its Own Sharing Button

Twitter Share

Twitter is launching a Tweet button that publishers will be able to add to their sites so visitors can share content on the social net. The move comes as Twitter has expanded into other areas it previously left to other startups. Over the last several months, it has launched its own URL shortener, banned third-party ad networks from its site, and launched an official iPhone app. Twitter has defended all of those moves by saying they’re necessary to better serve users.

In introducing its own Tweet button, for instance, Twitter says that “despite the high volume of sharing, there is plenty of room to make it easier” and talks up how simple it is for publishers to add the buttons to their sites.

Twitter is moving into a market that until now has been dominated by TweetMeme, which is behind the gray and green “retweet” buttons which have become ubiquitous on the web. In a blog post, Twitter says it’s “working closely with the good folks at TweetMeme and, from here on out, they will be pointing to the Twitter Tweet button.” Meanwhile, TweetMeme says it is moving into several new businesses and launching a product for developers called DataSift.

It’s unclear what the terms of the Twitter-TweetMeme partnership are, but it would seem logical that TweetMeme would be getting compensated in some way, considering how much traction its buttons have gained (TweetMeme says its buttons are getting more than 750 million impressions a day). We’ve asked TweetMeme for more details and are waiting to hear back. TweetMeme founder Nick Halstead tells us in an e-mail that he “cannot comment on the commercial arrangement beyond what has already been said on both parties blog posts” but “we are extremely happy with the partnership.”


Anyone Want to Offer Free SEO Advice to a Former Businessweek Editor?

Former Businessweek editor John Byrne has a new site up, and he’s understandably proud: PoetsandQuants has an impressive-looking survey of the top MBA programs and a slew of related stories. (Not a coincidence: Business school rankings are a big asset for Businessweek too.)

The problem, as Byrne explains in a blog post, is that Google (GOOG) doesn’t seem to care. Or at least not in the way he’d like it to: Search for “poetsandquants” and you’ll find many references to the site, including the site’s Twitter and YouTube accounts, but no direct links to the site itself.

And, frustratingly, many of the links that Google does show searchers are simply scraping/Google gaming sites with no connection to Byrne’s site at all. Byrne:

As you go through the first five pages of Google results, there are all kinds of websites that have essentially highjacked Google, rendering its search product less useful and helpful to users. There’s a so-called weblog that is little more than a place to advertise Viagra and Cialis. There’s links to TweetMeme, Interceder, tweetcepts, twapperkeeper, rallyclips, and whotechpunditstweet, among many others. Most of them are search traps that have gamed Google. There’s even a link to one fool who has no idea who I am yet calls me a “douchebag” on page three of Google’s results for PoetsandQuants. (See the screenshot below to get a real glimpse of how bad Google’s results are.) Get through the first ten pages of results and there is still not a direct link to the site.

Two thoughts:

  • Join the club, John. You’re now one of many publishers who have a gripe with Google.
  • The fact that you’re one of many doesn’t make your gripe less worthy. And this sort of thing really should be worrisome for Google. It’s not that the search engine is ignoring your site–it’s that it is sending searchers to the wrong place. This happens much too often, and it’s a huge hole for a competitor to exploit.

I assume that Byrne, and Google, will sort this out fairly quickly–Bryne doesn’t tell us whether he’s been able to get ahold of a human in Mountain View to hash this out. And perhaps a link from this site will help!

But I also assume that Byrne, as a bootstrapping publisher, has less advanced SEO help than he had at his last gig, which means he’s always going to have some version of this problem.

So. Any generous SEO experts want to offer some advice about ways to solve his problem? You’ve got an open forum in the comments section below.

Two Days After Steve Slater’s Slide Ride, JetBlue Comes Back to the Web

Be honest–if you ran JetBlue, you’d want to stay quiet, too. Right?

But the airline, which gets lots of credit for engaging its customers on the Web, on Facebook and on Twitter, had to speak up eventually: Steve Slater’s freakout/fun ride was a full two days ago, and the former flight attendant is now a full-fledged media sensation. But JetBlue (JBLU) has been in a defensive crouch, more or less, since then.

So here’s the full text of JetBlue’s re-entry into the Web, via a blog post it put up this afternoon:

Sometimes the weird news is about us…

It wouldn’t be fair for us to point out absurdities in other corners of the industry without acknowledging when it’s about us. Well, this week’s news certainly falls into that category. Perhaps you heard a little story about one of our flight attendants? While we can’t discuss the details of what is an ongoing investigation, plenty of others have already formed opinions on the matter. Like, the entire Internet. (The reason we’re not commenting is that we respect the privacy of the individual. People can speak on their own behalf; we won’t do it for them.)

While this episode may feed your inner Office Space, we just want to take this space to recognize our 2,300 fantastic, awesome and professional Inflight Crewmembers for delivering the JetBlue Experience you’ve come to expect of us.

You can’t make this shtick up.

Pretty, good, no? Right tone, right tactic–acknowledge the news and acknowledge the reason why you can’t say much about it, which your media-savvy audience will understand.

My only critique is that JetBlue used the wrong YouTube link.

The fan-made trailer they highlight is pretty cool–the M.I.A. song is a nice touch–but obviously the clip to use is the movie’s most famous scene. So here you go (if your workplace frowns on obscenity in hip-hop lyrics, then this won’t be safe for work):

Keith Olbermann Takes On “Professional Right” And “Amateur Left”

Since early this morning, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs has been the object of ire from liberals for comments he made regarding criticism from the “professional left.” After clarifying, but not apologizing, to HuffPost’s Sam Stein, Gibbs missed today’s briefing (Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton attributed it to “sniffles and a sore throat”), but Burton further refocused Gibbs’ remarks toward liberal cable personalities. Tonight, Grand Poobah of the ‘Professional Left’ Keith Olbermann delivered a Special Comment directed back at Gibbs.

The Special Comment was preceded by a segment with Michael Moore, in which Olbermann claims that no one serious on the left has compared Obama to George W. Bush. With that caveat, I suppose he wished to exclude Jon Stewart, but it was Olbermann who seemed almost nostalgic for the feel-good smoke-blowing of the former President when Obama gave his address on the BP Oil Disaster.

In his Special Comment, Olbermann basically uses the premise of my question to Burton today, pointing out how the “professional right” seems to have more sway over this administration than those who got Obama elected. He also uses the term “amateur left” line to wrap up (used earlier by Daily News reporter Ken Bazinet’s:

After hearing Burton this afternoon, I have little doubt that Keith Olbermann was who Gibbs had in mind with his remarks about the “professional left,” so I suppose it’s fitting that Olbermann close out the day with his response. Gibbs’ remarks to The Hill this morning were only slightly different than the response he gave me in June when I asked about the prospect of losing what he now calls the “professional left.”

Much of what Olbermann says in the segment is true, but he misses a crucial point about the right’s nonexistent appetite for compromise: this is nothing new. It’s what they are supposed to do. I think the White House’s frustration stems from having to fend off attacks that they feel they shouldn’t have to, by people who should know what they’re up against.

I also think this day-long hissy fit by liberals is embarrassing. If everyone who expressed outrage today were actually part of the “professional left,” we would be at about 4% unemployment. It seems to me liberals were looking for a reason to vent.

Keith Olbermann To Deliver “Special Comment” Aimed At Gibbs Tonight

Want to know what MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann thinks of Robert Gibbs“professional left” comment? You’ll have to wait until Countdown tonight – but it will happen, and will come in “Special Comment” form.

Michael Moore will give his take as well. This is probably not what Pres. Obama wants right now, on the night of these midterm primaries.

Olbermann made the announcement this afternoon on Twitter:

Early ShowPlug from “The Professional Left.” @MMFlint (Michael Moore) reacts, plus a Special Comment, on Mr. Gibbs’ remarks, on Countdown

Olbermann didn’t answer directly when I asked for his take (on Twitter) a few hours ago, after Bill Burton specified Gibbs meant “cable TV commentators” when he referred to the “professional left” during today’s White House briefing. Now we’ll see what one of the most influential voices on the left has to say about the criticism.

Also, apparently Keith didn’t like my joke that his Special Comment aimed at Gibbs means “civil war.” So I’d imagine it won’t sound like this Special Comment.

> Update: Olbermann tweets a preview:

For those freaking out on the prospect of a Special Comment on “Professional Left” this relevant quote to NetRoots Nation last month:
“What I’m asking you is to keep making your voices heard. To keep holding me accountable” — President Obama, July 2010

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