Content Marketing

Are Journalists Breeding Mistrust on Social Media?

By Tamarra Kemsley July 8th, 2014

This post originally appeared on Contently’s The Freelancer.

The latest ING report on social media serves as a warning for journalists everywhere: Step up your game or risk losing your audience’s trust.

ING’s first report, released in 2012, came to the unsurprising conclusion that platforms like Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook have revolutionized the news industry. However, this time around, the sequel is better than the original, dissecting exactly how social media has influenced news and the way it’s shared.

The results revealed an uncomfortable and costly disconnect between how journalists view social media compared to how they use it. One-third of the 352 respondents said social media is an unreliable source, while half said it was their main source of information. And stunningly, only 20 percent claimed they always checked their facts before publishing an article and promoting it on social media. The consequences can be spectacular, as was the case when the Pope was wrongly accused of having ties to the Argentinean dictator Jorge Videla by journalists on Twitter.

With that in mind, it’s hardly surprising 51 percent of PR professionals agreed the reliability of news has decreased due to social media due to less fact-checking.

And they’re not the only ones. A 2012 survey by Craig Newmark’s CraigConnects—though you may be more familiar with his other website, Craigslist—showed 32 percent of Democrats and 37 percent of Republicans felt social media had a negative effect on the quality of news, whereas only 19 and 15 percent, respectively, felt it had a positive effect.

The pressure to break news is a predictable culprit behind sloppy social media practices. Forty-five percent of journalists said 60 to 100 percent of what they publish is done with the wince-inducing motto “Publish first, correct later.” But it doesn’t stop there: 60 percent of journalists also agreed with the statement “On social media I am less bound by journalistic rules than in traditional media.”

Clearly, speed isn’t the only problem.

It seems journalists have developed a double standard in the way they treat social media, relying on it for sources and stories even as they fail to check their own work. The result? A jaded and increasingly skeptical audience.

As the report concludes, “If journalists and journalism as an industry are to regain the confidence of others, it’s imperative we apply the same standards to social media as we do to traditional media.”

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