By Hiba Naeem
Exactly how pervasive is social media?
Social media is so prevalent in our society today that no industry is devoid of it. Digital media space is no different. In fact, social media has revolutionized how journalism is conducted in the 21st century. With active user engagement, journalists can now reach out to a global audience in a matter of few tweets and create the most ‘trending’ content. As social media creates a more content-driven, creative economy, more reporters opt for freelancing. These perks are particularly enticing as technology ensures a widespread use of these platforms. Moreover, as creators get more creative with their content, each platform is now more diverse in its usage. Platforms like Tiktok, Instagram and Facebook are no longer merely used for networking. Now they're mediums for political and social commentary on reels, blog posts, vines, tweets, and, ever more popular, podcasts where opinion pieces can be delivered with open partiality too. This variety of reporting content adds to the complexities and so the lines between influencers, bloggers and reporters are now waning out more than ever.
Is social media effective for freelance journalists?
For any freelance reporter, social media is a blessing for multiple reasons. For one, it gives a creator far greater control over his or her content than what one could previously enjoy by working for mainstream media. Secondly, and this is what social media has much to boast, the engagement with the audience is immensely quicker and more effective. Unlike traditional media forms, where the letter to editors or phone calls took far more time, digital media forms allow the audience to respond back at the same time media is generated. With nearly all platforms introducing the ‘live’ feature, journalists can receive real-time feedback and comments. Moreover, when it comes to self-promotion, it makes for a great platform. Free and user-friendly, they enable interaction with paid advertisement too. For freelance reporters, this is great news as they can generate better revenue while building a brand and repute for themselves. Even better is that they can now pool their resources and make the reporting experience extremely interactive for the audience. Collaboration with other bloggers, influencers, and reporters means reaching out to more fans, readers, and audience. These benefits mean attracting a target audience and clients on social media through unique narrative tools without compromising on quality itself.
Final verdict on social media's impact on freelance writers
But along with numerous perks come the cons too. Without mainstream media regulations, freelance reporters no longer have a code of ethics or journalistic ethics to abide by. Consequently, self-regulation or independence becomes a crucial feature for reporters who are faced with internal gatekeeping from these forums. Over recent years, these platforms have faced immense critique for their lack of regulation over various issues: harassment, hate speech, cyber-bullying, and lack of monitoring when it comes to fake news. To counter these, they have added what can now be categorized as internal gatekeeping tools by editing their policies on hate speech, graphic nudity, etc. Therefore, while freelance journalism has its perks, it also adds to the responsibility of a reporter who is now expected to be both- investigative and thorough in his or her reporting. Reporters are now also expected to ensure fact-checking on their part. Accuracy is then no longer externalized, unlike mainstream media where fact-checking is distinctly supervised(most of the time) or where the company policy regulates authenticity.
Good to remember
Perhaps, what makes this debate so nuanced is how social media continues to evolve at a rapid pace and so, reaching any conclusions would be a myopic or hasty judgment. For any new and upcoming freelance journalist, it might be advantageous that one stays connected 24/7 via social media. However, always staying connected also has its pitfalls as it can affect the work-life balance. This is a minor inconvenience that can be avoided if one maintains a personal and professional account to keep work distinct from personal life. This is especially crucial for beginners who are still exploring freelancing. If you are one such user and have questions about how journalism has changed then click the link here to discover more. And if you share our enthusiasm and curiosity about knowing what ethical journalism is, then we invite you to read more here.