Social media's importance in newsgathering

This story about Netflix CEO Reed Hastings being investigated by the SEC for posting information about his company on Facebook is a reminder of how widespread the use of social media is for many corporations to communicate with the public.
Hastings posted on his Facebook account on July 5 that Netflix customers were viewing more than 1 billion hours of video content a month. The company's stock rose by 13 percent on the day of the post. SEC issued a warning to Netflix that it was investigating the matter and may be taking legal action because the posting may violate a Fair Disclosure regulation by posting the update to Facebook
Hastings has said he considers the post to be public since many of his more than 200,000 followers are reporters and bloggers and the news was widely reported. Also, the same information was posted on the company's blog in June. The information was not, however, released in a press advisory or SEC filing. 

Additionally, Hastings says the company's stock had begin to rise even before he made the post and that the information he posted was not relevant to the stock price. He referred to the situation as a “fascinating social media story.”
I believe the issue at hand is whether information broadcast on social media networks should be considered as public as a press release or article on a company website. For journalists, it is a reminder that when looking for information on whatever beat you are covering, social media perhaps should be one of the first avenues you consider. Executive make big announcements via Facebook, Twitter and blogs now and it would be wise to friend or follow any stakeholder involved in your story.

Years ago it would have been impossible to hear from a CEO of a large corporation or elected official except through canned quotes in a press release issued by the company, but now, these people who use social media to engage the public and are taking advantage of the Internet as a place to interact and share information have become great sources for journalists. 


Archiving John Walsh's comments on Storify

A reminder that after tweeting general thoughts and quotes from ESPN's John Walsh on Tuesday, you're now being asked to create an archive page of them on Storify. You were each asked to tweet at least 10 times under the hashtag JohnWalsh. When you create your Storify page, you may use two of your tweets or all of them. Or you may use a mixture of your tweets and others' -- if you trust their veracity. I am requiring each of you to write at least a strong, big paragraph of text to open the page, and to walk up/explain some additional social media with your own text. Also remember that Jason will be posting some pics, with captions, to Flickr for you to pull into your Storify template. (Jason, please put a comment below this post to let us know how to access your pics.) and Jessica will be publishing audio -- some clips, and perhaps a longer feed -- to SoundCloud, for possible embedding on your page. (Jessica, please note in a comment below how students can find these on SoundCloud.) All of you should be using good judgment, as you would when writing a story, so that you don't slander anyone with your posts. And all of you should be archiving only what you believe to be absolutely accurate. Once you've completed and published your Storify page, please link to it below, so I can easily find it to grade it. This counts as an in-class story assignment. Thanks!

A "Twitter Helper"

On November 28, the New York Times' newly-minted public editor, Margaret Sullivan, announced that NYT Jerusalem Bureau Chief Judi Rudoren would be assigned "an editor on the foreign desk in New York to work closely with" on social media posts. Sullivan's decision came in response to criticism Rudoren received stemming from her Facebook statuses and Tweets over the last few weeks, compiled in a piece by The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg called “Twitterverse to New NYT Jerusalem Bureau Chief: Stop Tweeting!”

In addition to Goldberg's complaints, Sullivan writes: "More recently, during the Gaza conflict, she wrote one Facebook post in which she described Palestinians as “ho-hum” about the death of loved ones, wrote of their “limited lives” and, in another, said she shed her first tears in Gaza over a letter from an Israeli family. The comments came off as insensitive and the reaction was sharp, not only from media pundits, but also from dismayed readers."

Speaking of readers being dismayed, I was extremely dismayed to read Sullivan's piece. Since the re-start of fighting between Gaza and Israel earlier this month, I have turned to Rudoren on an almost daily basis for her deeply-reported, thoughtfully-written pieces, specifically about the impact that Israel's bombing campaign has had on life in Gaza. After reading a particularly captivating tale of a Palestinian family torn-apart by a bomb, I remember being so impressed that I took to Twitter to congratulate Rudoren and to tell her how much she has inspired me as a budding journalist (she replied "Thank you!") Her's is an extremely dangerous assignment -- several journalists reporting from Gaza have already been injured -- and I was amazed by how she was able to find stories from under the rubble and to shine some light on the human costs of warfare.

Understandably, Sullivan's decision was big news on social media platforms. It's rare for such a prominent journalist to be called-out in such a public way, and I'm sure in many ways it was quite embarrassing for Rudoren. My hope, however, is that this dust-up will not impact her reporting. The work she has done is simply too important to be hurt by hypersensitive readers and a green public editor intent on sending a message to other reporters.

Another question is: What does it mean to work closely with an editor on your social media posts? Will Rudoren still write her own Tweets and Facebook statuses? Considering that they are coming from her name, I sincerely hope so. This all sounds a bit too much like censorship -- of an extremely intelligent and thoughtful person -- for my taste. But maybe I'm just a Rudoren apologist.


NYPD Officer Helps Homeless Man

By now I'm sure we've all seen the incredible tourist cell phone photo of the NYPD officer giving a homeless man a pair of shoes.  This Storify story put together by journalist Bill Mitchell on Poynter does a terrific job of highlighting the power of social media and the speed news can travel at today.

The photo was posted on the New York Police Department's Facebook page just last Tuesday and on Thursday night, it had nearly 445,000 likes.  According to Mitchell's Storify post, by the next morning the photo had surpassed half a million likes, over 38,000 comments and 181,000 shares.  New York Times ran a story on it Thursday morning and the author of the story, J. David Goodman had posted the story on his Twitter account and was tweeting updates as the act of kindness was getting more and more news coverage and even New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg had tweeted the original story.

In addition, the story made the Yahoo home page, the front pages of several newspapers as shown by Mitchell in his Storify story, and both the tourist, Jennifer Foster, and the officer, Lawrence DePrimo were on the Today Show chatting with host Savannah Guthrie Friday morning.  The story was re-tweeted many times on Twitter.  The Storify story does a great job of visualizing the events, shows the breadth of the coverage and also gives viewers a chance to get more information on the story by clicking the various elements.