Is Social Media Threatening Journalistic Integrity?


By: Summa Aholo

It is hard in the age of social media to for reporters and journalists. According to Pew research center 35% of people get their news from social media. This sets up a competition for eyeballs which can compromise the integrity of journalism.

After the horrendous event that was the Boston Marathon bombing, social media was the first thing that the masses went to for information. The easy accessibility was the biggest draw, and the minute updates made it even more appealing even though those minute updates were not accurate. Journalists have a code of ethics that they abide, there are things that can and cannot be said, rules to be followed. However citizen journalists do not have that code to abide and that’s were things can get scary.

Many times the authorities will ask the masses for help locating or identifying a suspect, or they will use social media to locate said suspect which can be helpful. However the more we rely on social media the bigger probability to receive inaccurate news.  As was the case with the Boston Marathon Bombing, the authorities asked for help from the masses, & Reddit users being hurt and angry jumped to conclusions, they took one piece of information (that turned out to be fiction) and ran with it. This presents a problem for traditional news outlets because they are hurting for ratings, and when they think they have been “scooped” by a social media outlet they will also run a story that has been attributed to a social media site without fact checking the accuracy, this is a vicious cycle that can ruin people’s lives.

Social media and sites such as Reddit are a double-edged sword. On one hand, the masses sometimes have access to information such as video or pictures that the government or reporters do not have saving time for the governmental agencies. On the other hand, the masses often are not trained in any way to help the given situation. Such was the case when the people thought the Reddit users had found one of the men “responsible” for the bombing. When in fact the man in question was a college student that took his own life. Because this “story” that was fabricated on Reddit then picked up by major news outlets, the family of the “accused” was needlessly attacked, when they too were grieving and turning an innocent man into a violent criminal.

Social media can be used for news however the news needs to be fact-checked by a professional journalist who knows what they are doing.

Published by

UNT Eagle Strategies

Class members of the social media class in the Mayborn School of Journalism