When news breaks, newsrooms increasingly turn to social media for on-the-scene reports.
Those tweets and status updates are about to become even more ubiquitous—and useful to journalists—as more people begin using location-enabled smartphones and get comfortable sharing information while on the go.
This, in turn, will intensify questions about how newsrooms should use the information they find via social media, said Storify's Claire Wardle in a recent IJNet Live chat. Wardle is director of news services for Storyful, which collects eyewitness footage from the social Web and verifies it for news organizations.
Here's her take on coming trends in social media--and what they will mean for news:
"At the moment, very low numbers of people geo-locate their content, which makes it hard during breaking news events," Wardle said. "But with more people with smartphones (where location is often automatically turned on), we'll be able to map more content with tools such as Geofeedia."
More social media updates on the go
"Ultimately mobile is the biggest development. It's astounding to me how much social content is coming out of places such as East Africa and South America," Wardle said.
"More and more people are sharing what they're doing," she said. "Much is not useful for journalists, but what it does mean is that when a news event happens, more people are used to sharing the experience."
Growing ethical concerns
Wardle hopes to see "the development of more ethical guidelines about social media usage, particularly around rights and permissions."
"More and more news organizations are becoming increasingly reliant on UGC [user-generated content] sourced from social media, but we haven't had some of the important conversations about the ethics of using photos from Facebook, whether it's appropriate to download a video from YouTube and re-upload to a player with pre-roll ads on a news site," Wardle said.
"We're going to have to find answers to these questions, because at the moment, too many uploaders are being taken advantage of, and during breaking news events, it can feel like the Wild West out there."
"Only by spending all day in these spaces, do you see the problems, issues and concerns, and I think we're only just catching up with important questions that need to be addressed by all journalists."