For quite some time now I’ve been wondering what the impact of social networking is on the value of journalism, since, in fact, I studied a module on the value of journalism during my final year of university which brought to my attention the importance of both social media and the blogosphere, confirmed by a conference that I attended earlier this year, Value of Journalism 2010, hosted by the BBC College of Journalism, which I’ve written about previously. Since then I have been trying unsuccessfully to promote myself through both these mediums in a vain attempt to add some credibility to my word, when an experiment was brought to my attention this morning.
The experiment in question was entitled ‘Huis Clos Sur Le Net’ or ‘Behind Closed Doors On The Net’ and the premise is simple: 5 journalists, from France, have to spend 5 days in a farmhouse in Southern France, and their only sources of news are Facebook and Twitter. Also, they can’t follow feeds or tweets of any news media, so all of their news has to be third-hand in effect, in order to establish the value of social networking for journalists.
Their first discovery was that their attention was drawn to news articles that they wouldn’t normally read, for example, through a degree of separation, one of the participants read tweets from a man jailed in Moscow during a demonstration, and the participant followed this up via tweeting and phone calls and managed to write an interesting story on this piece that usually he would have had no idea about.
Another realisation that came from this experiment was that a large portion of news relayed via social networking has, in one way or another, been skewed or altered somehow, meaning it turns into a worldwide, digital version of Chinese whispers, whereby you will only find out as much as someone else wants to tell you, meaning that large chunks of daily news are left untouched because another person did not deem them necessary to reiterate.
Conclusions drawn from this experiment are that the impact of social networking on journalism is a lot bigger than many think, leading to many journalists underestimating the value of social media, for example, one of the participants in this experiment who works at CBC/Radio-Canada says that very few of his colleagues use Twitter, despite the news organisation having an account with over 30,000 followers.
As far as I’m concerned, whilst this experiment isn’t ground-breaking; there have been others before it, and there will be others after it, it should hopefully wake some of the media up to the impact of Twitter, Facebook and social media as a whole. The experiment can be found here