Elections Show Potential of Social Media

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Midterm elections on Nov. 02 may have set a benchmark for the future synthesis of politics and innovation within news organizations.

Being an important day in U.S. politics, major news organizations tried to report their election-coverage by means of up-to-the-minute technology. The Washington Post and the New York Times were among the noticeable contributors to the new wave of social media in political news.

On election day, the Washington Post became the first news organization to buy a Twitter-promoted trend, #Election, in order to promote its election coverage and incite people to share their thoughts with all Twitter users following the trend.

According to Katharine Zales, head of digital news products at the Washington Post,"the reason we did it was not so much for the traffic. It was more to be front and center in the conversation." By doing so, the Washington Post tried to deliever real-time, multimedia, and personally engaging political discussion.

By purchasing a promoted trend on Twitter, the Post took a serious approach of social media as a medium by which news are transmitted nowadays.

In a similar way, the New York Times used social media in the form of a Twitter traffic map that showed candidates' tweets, retweets from the public and tweets directed at the candidates.

The Times also hosted its first live-streaming web coverage from its newsroom trying to make their election-coverage feel much closer to their audiences, just like TV.

It seems like news organizations today have acknowledged that new digital journalism requires a new a new approach to their audiences; hence, most of them see public engagement as an essential structure of their business.

By using flashy web aplications, live-streaming video and Twitter to cover the elections, news agencies have demonstrated the importance of innovation in making political news more engaging, immediate and widely available throught different platforms.


'Generation sex' speaks out

Courtesy of Amazon.com
Is a sex column appropriate reading in college newspapers? Daniel Reimold, a journalism professor at the University of Tampa, believes it is.

Reimold believes that students are dealing with issues of sex on every college campus and that students should be able to have open discussions on the topic.

But is it appropriate to discuss these issues in the public of a school newspaper? One opinion in the controversy says that so many people who are reading these papers, don't pick up the paper for a sex column. Professors, alumni, parents, and people who donate money receive the paper for news, not for advice on sex.

 "The censorship comes into play 99% of the time when a single outside reader, an alumni or parent or administrator, sees the word "sex" and simply reacts," Reimold said.

He believes that many people would simply pass over the article and if they didn't, they'd likely agree with the columnist's opinion or assessment.

This generation, Reimold said, has redefined the gender roles and "there's no blueprint for how students are supposed to act with each other" anymore. Sexuality is expressed more openly now than ever before, which has earned this generation of youths the name "generation sex".

Mary Beth Marklein, a staff writer for USA TODAY, wrote about the great controversy of these columns saying, "Vibrators, cross-dressing, oral sex, multiple orgasms, masturbation, bondage — no topic is too hot to handle. And while some say the columns are supposed to educate, others say they're raunchy and irrelevant."

Many colleges across the U.S. have found that students are more likely to pick up a newspaper if they know there will be a sex column. Sex sells, of course, but there are other risks associated with printing such columns.

Oppressive stereotypes are likely to be perpetuated in the articles. Instead of educating students about sexual equality, they're likely to be printing material that "size matters" or that a man's conquest for females will gain him popularity and respect.

Are these columns meant to entertain or to educate? I think the distinction should be made completely clear to readers to avoid foreseeable trouble. Additionally, I believe the staff writers should have prior background in feminist philosophies and ethics in order to dispel stereotypes instead of perpetuating them.

This could potentially be a beneficial idea as long as there are strict boundaries and a clear sense of ethics in the matter at hand. Something as touchy and controversial as this issue should be approached carefully as it could quickly and easily spiral out of control.


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