Mobile and Emerging Technologies

Social Media as a News Outlet: Reported.ly

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If Will McAvoy taught us anything during those three powerful seasons of The Newsroom, it’s that verified facts and details outweigh the race to be first in breaking a story.
Social Media is seen as the enemy throughout the series, and they make a good argument as to why my profession can destroy the truth, and lives (let’s not forget the wrongful accusing in the Boston bombing suspects).
So when the world renown and respected NPR Senior Strategist Andy Carvin decided to create a different spin on how social media cannot just change, but enhance the way we receive and interact with the news, my Journalism Degree and Social Media career made their relationship Facebook Official.
“Not a newswire, but a crowdsourced newsroom of public editors.”
Reported.ly LogoCarvin is calling it Reported.ly, which will feature stories from global “anchors” Carvin has hand selected to represent the venture. The idea is to have his journalists based around the world to deliver breaking news through social media.
At first glance, it’s nothing we haven’t heard before. BuzzFeed has made a name for itself by repurposing news stories as they become trending. (Although if I’m asked to take one more quiz to see which TV show character I’m most similar to I’m going to lose it.)
But then I did some more digging and realized that this really is something we should all take notice of. The goal for Reportedly is not to be the first to break the news, it’s to break through the noise and strike up a real-time conversation with social media users to enlighten, and educate, about what’s happening in the world that interests them. And to find out exactly what those interests are, and how Reportedly should be executed overall, Carvin and his team have already taken to Twitter (#AskReportedly) and Reddit.
One of the major red flags that went off in my head seemed to be a general worry for many people: sources.
How will sources be identified and verified when social media is all about anonymity? 
Will McAvoy
Carvin referenced Boston when he answered this inquiry on Reddit:
“We want to highlight the people behind the stories and ideas, not exploit them.
As for Boston, one of my reasons for wanting to create this subreddit is how that event played out on reddit. I’m wrapping up a research project for Columbia U’s journalism school in which I analyzed several thousand tweets from multiple reddit threads in which they tried to ID the bombers. Two important findings: while there were a lot of sincere people trying to help, I couldn’t find a single person who appeared to be a journalist. Second, almost no one raised questions about sourcing and confirmation methods. There were a surprising number of people warning how their methods might backfire, but there wasn’t a facilitated discuss on how you can use reddit in a more constructed and ethical way. As we plan to staff this subreddit with our team, we hope to help change that.”
Clearly, Carvin has done his research, but I couldn’t say I was convinced yet. I wanted to know something else: What about mistakes? Any social media professional can tell you when dealing with real-time updates, it’s easy to get trigger-happy and post something without making sure you’re right on the money. So what then?
Pursuing the belief that in a “crowdsourced newsroom,” where Carvin and his anchors are pulling in reports, he is “relying on his followers to act as editors and sources, fact-checking and verifying and also distributing the news that he was curating.”
That’s right. He’s asking the public to call him out on his mistakes. Which may sound strange, but the last time Carvin slipped up, he not only admitted it right away, he made sure to apologize and repeatedly Tweet the correction. A move like that might be frowned upon in traditional journalism, but in the fast-paced world of social media, it builds trust. And I have to say, after days of trying to poke holes in Reportedly, I can’t see any reason why we shouldn’t give Carvin and his talented team of journalists a chance to change the way the world consumes it’s news.
 
Follow Reported.ly on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit and Medium.

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