While many are arguing nowadays whether Wikileaks is a new kind of journalism, and whether journalists should learn from its founder Julian Assange or just stay away from him as much as possible, I want to discuss a new kind of journalism that has knocked my socks off: Social Media journalism.
This is a term I coined after reading a heart-wrenching Washington Post story about a DC area-based family who had to endure a tragic circumstance after the birth of their baby boy. I’m not going to ruin the story for you, but the most fascinating part for me was the format in which this story was told. The journalist who told the story chose a “Facebook format” in which he narrated tear-jerking events using real Facebook status updates that were written by the family members who were involved in the story.
After each update or comment, the author added factual information to make the story complete by explaining for example how the couple in this story met and how they relate to the people that they have as “friends” on their Facebook page.
I’m not usually the emotional type, but after I read the story I did in fact tear up a bit.The reason for this is simple: the story hit close to home because it used a format that I use on a daily basis to interact with my family and friends: Facebook. By doing so, the author gave the people involved in the story a real life feel.They were not just faceless names mentioned in a newspaper article. They were people who had friends and family who “liked” their news and “LOL” ed their updates and “shared” their links.
This story wouldn’t have the same effect on me personally if it was written in a regular print format. I would have simply thought something along the lines of “How sad” and resumed checking my Tweetdeck Twitter updates.
After reading the story, I couldn’t stop thinking about the impact this social media format can have if let’s say it was used to tell the stories of war victims, or victims of violence or even honor crimes. I might be day dreaming here but these social media formats could probably prompt the audience to lobby to stop certain wars, or create tougher laws to punish those who commit honor crimes. Imagine how important the role of journalism would become in this case as it will improve or even save lives. Does Wikilieaks revelations have the same impact? Maybe, maybe not.I’m still not sure of that, but what I’m sure of is that such social media journalism format has made me shed a tear or two.