A Journalist in the Digital Age


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If you look at my college degree it says that I am a print and multimedia journalist, but unlike a traditional reporter I don’t subscribe to the Boston Globe, the New York Times or even the Washington Post. You may ask what type of journalist I am if I don’t pick up a paper each morning but I’ll tell you: I’m a journalist in the digital age. I turn to the web for my news as I watch things break on Twitter, go viral on Facebook and update on all of the major newspapers’ websites.

Television was normally the fastest way to broadcast news until the world’s obsession with connectivity and the web took over. This is evidenced in the events that unfolded on the evening of Sunday, May 1, 2011. When the newscaster mentioned that the president would be speaking at 10:30 for an unknown reason, all it took was a refresh of my Twitter feed to know that Osama Bin Laden was dead. I was then able to confirm it on and read an ever growing list of articles, reports and links to video on Twitter…all before the TV station finished its commercial break.

As it turns out, the news of Bin Laden’s death actually broke on Twitter, the first tweet reportedly coming from Keith Urbahn, Chief of Staff for the office of the former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. He tweeted, ‘So I’m told by a reputable person they have killed Osama Bin Laden. Hot damn.’? This was all it took to create and online media firestorm which resulted in a record-breaking tweets per hour.

In a Mashable online poll, 31% of respondents heard the news first on Twitter with Facebook following close behind at 20%. These numbers show that social media is changing the way we get our news and it’s easy to understand why since news spreads faster online. With television, in order to ‘interrupt this program and take you live to the White House,’? they must organize the equipment and the team of people to use it, and hope that people are sitting near their TV’s prepared to watch the broadcast.

In contrast, it is estimated that by Christmas 2011 more phone users will have smartphones than any other type of phone, meaning nearly 142.8 million people will have access to the web at any given time. That’s a lot of people who can get breaking news while at the bar, in a bowling alley or at their son’s soccer game. They can see a single tweet that says ‘Osama Bin Laden has been reported dead’? and retweet it faster than a newscaster can say ‘good evening.’?

Because of this shift in how people receive their information I’ve learned of all the major news that’s broken in the past few years, from the internet. While there’s something ‘official’? about having a newscaster interrupt your program to bring you news, if you ask me, it’s not official until it’s a trending topic on Twitter.

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