Is it enough to <3 #socialmedia?
(Round of applause)
These two words have spread through the journalism world like wild fire. Aspiring journalists, newspaper veterans and anyone with two fingers, a computer and an often misplaced belief that they have something to say that the world needs to hear have all jumped on the Twitter bandwagon. But, is social media making readers dumber?
If it is, newspapers like The Cavalier Daily, which are proud of their social media efforts — my 1,587 Facebook friends know I totally heart #socialmedia — should be concerned.
As proud as I am about The Cavalier Daily’s social media presence — we have the largest number of Twitter followers of any Charlottesville newspaper, so I think that I have earned the right to brag — I am conscious that it may be acting as a deterrent for readers to well, actually read the newspaper.
Recent conversations I have had with faculty and students have confirmed my suspicions.
“I love following @cavalierdaily, because I don’t even need to read the story if I don’t have time,” seems to be the common consensus. “I can just glance over the 140-character tweet and glean what I need to know from that.”
That is a worrying trend, I thought as I browsed my Twitter feed and replied to three emails with the words “Sure,” “OK,” and “Fine.”
There are several ways The Cavalier Daily is trying to mitigate some of the laziness that can be encouraged by social media. Smarter tweets, probing questions and, of course, reader engagement. Rather than tweeting headlines, tweet questions. Ask for reader feedback. Force readers to critically analyze our content.
It comes down to this — journalists are often attention-seeking. Think about it: We spend our lives writing in often uncomfortable situations — wars, city council meetings, cramped cubicles with no windows or signs of life — all for the glory. The glory of seeing our names above the fold or on the main page of a well-known website. Therefore, it’s easy to get sucked into a world that can quantify that all for you. When I lose a Twitter follower, a little piece inside of me dies. But, it’s more important to put aside this arrogance, to go for quality tweets, ones that encourage readers to go to the main source — The Cavalier Daily website or print edition. It isn’t just enough to <3 #socialmedia.
—Kaz Komolafe is the editor-in-chief of The Cavalier Daily. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.