Is Twitter the New Soapbox?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

How do you cope with "cyberstalking"? Do you ignore your offenders, block them, or file a law suit against them? These were the choices presented to Alyce Zeoli, a Buddhist leader based in Maryland, as reported by Somini Sengupta in the New York Times. Zeoli received over 8,000 harassing messages via Twitter from a disgruntled former member of her Buddhist group, William Lawrence Cassidy.

The case filed against Cassidy walks a fine line. Should Cassidy’s actions be considered harassment or be protected by his right to freedom of speech.

The rapid introduction of social media into today’s society leaves many cases such as this open ended. An important decision must be made in this case. Should posts on social media sites such as Twitter be seen as printed material or viewed as free expression much like a speaker on a soap box.

If Cassidy’s tweets are viewed a print material, New York Times v. Sullivan comes to mind as Zeoli is considered by many a public figure. If twitter is deemed a digital soapbox, Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire. In both cases, I think Mr. Cassidy’s defense team has its work cut out for it as it seems malice should be easy to prove given the nature of the harassing tweets.

As US Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer outlines in his book Active Liberty, liberty must expand and contract as society needs. I am very interested to observe the outcome of Mr. Cassidy’s trial as it will help shape the interaction between social media and the First Amendment.


Where does journalism end and media begin?

A book by Ronald Bishop recently sparked interest, and increasing concern, about what is really journalism? More: The Vanishing of Scale in an Over-The-Top Nation begs the question I have also began to ask, where do we stop?

With so many personal details of our lives being divulged countless times throughout the day, I must stop and wonder when do we decide enough is enough? Today, everyone seems to first: have a story to tell, and second: a strong opinion to go with it. Not only are we contributing to this, but Bishop says these personal places in our lives are being assaulted with trivial messages everyday. This is where the lines begin to blur with journalism.

We are begging to accept the casual, non-expert input as real news. It is in reality, a sort of media obsession rather than true reporting that we are settling for instead of seeking stories and information with real depth and information.

New outlets in social media have made it very convenient to get "news," but that "news" has lead to a new scale of consumption as indicated by Bishop. I know that I fall into this trap, and going to make a conscious effort to seek out more than what is easy and support those who are attempting with their work to take a stand for true journalism and reporting.


Google+ and Journalists - Is it Really Necessary?

Facebook is arguably the king of social media these days. If there is anyone who can threaten to steal the crown away, it would have to be Google. The new Google+ may be capable of committing social media regicide.

Google+ is a Facebook clone in some ways, and for that reason there will be many who steer clear of it. What is the point in having another Facebook account?

The reaction to Google+ has been positive from the Journalism community. There are tools and benefits of Google+ that are helpful for a journalist. As of the second of August, there were more than 140 journalists with confirmed Google+ accounts. That is a large number, considering it is still exclusive to people who get an invite from someone.

How are journalists using Google+ so far? A recent Mashable article provided five different ways that journalists have been using this new tool: Talking about Google+, Hosting Audience Hangouts, Engaging Readers, Analyzing News Coverage, and Showing Personality.

The early comparisons between conversations on Facebook and Google+ are already rolling in. During that same Mashable article, they mentioned starting an identical discussion on both platforms

about a study that claims 34% of iPhone users think they have 4G. The posts were published at roughly the same time and had similar prompts, posing questions about the study’s results. On Facebook, there were 57 likes and 40 comments, while the Google+ post had 183 +1′s and 116 comments.
There are other benefits to be found from having a Google+ account that makes it unique. The ability to have content be public or private helps to have a personal account that also allows for personal branding. You control who gets to see your posts through the use of circles. A journalist no longer needs to have a personal account and a professional account in order to maintain their proper identities.

Google+ is also part of the Search Engine Google, which makes it so your posts are searchable, thus driving in more readers without any extra effort spent. Whether you choose to share news and blog posts, or market books and Web sites, your information is easier to find.

More information on how journalists can benefit from a Google+ account can be found here.

A journalist at any level in their career can see immediate benefits from using Google+. There are many more articles about the benefits than were included in this blog. Over the course of the next two years, it will be as essential to have a Google+ account as any other social media platform. I'm ready for that future. Are you?

Photo Courtesy of Jon Lee Clark's Flickr via Creative Commons.


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