Social Media Causes Shift In Political Power

Friday, September 30, 2011

In early July this year Kelly Thomas, a homeless schizophrenic man was allegedly beaten to death by Fullerton, California police. The beating was caught on tape by a pedestrian with a cell phone. Paul Detrick of shows how the release of this video and images of Thomas on his deathbed have shown how the use of social journalism has changed the political power in today’s society.

After Thomas’s death, the Fullerton police department refused to release information as the investigation was still pending. Ron Thomas, Kelly’s father, attempted to contact local media outlets and was outraged that no media outlet would pick up the story. Ron then released an image of his son on his deathbed showing the graphic outcome of the beating.

Ron Thomas then release a video taken by a pedestrian who filmed the assault via a cell phone. The video’s audio track captures Kelly Thomas screaming out for the police to please stop. Eventually, Kelly breaks down and calls out for his dad.

The Fullerton Police continued to only provide vague answers.

The deliverance of this story via social media sparked outcry in the Fullerton area. Protesters now pack Fullerton city hall meetings and gather in masses outside the Fullerton police department in protest.

The citizens of Fullerton are an example of the power of citizen media. No longer are full stories controlled by police departments and other official agencies. With nearly every American carrying a cell phone with a camera if not video capabilities, we the citizens are becoming the source of truth.

As one outraged Fullerton citizen says, “Now, they’re under the watch of us.”

According to the LA Times, the two Fullerton officers involved with the case, Officer Manuel Ramos and Cpl. Jay Cicinelli have been charged with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter against Ramos and of involuntary manslaughter and excessive use of force against Cicinelli. Both will be placed on leave without pay starting October 8.

Photograph compliments of CBS Los Angeles.


Breaking News and Your Credibility

With the use of Twitter, Facebook, and other social media devices news travels at an astounding rate. Getting the story out in the newspaper the next day is considered a snails pace comparatively. With the race to beat the clock journalists have been facing the problem of releasing misinformation.

For example, in late July a journalists tweet was released stating Pierce Morgan had been suspended by CNN.

Clearly this was false, but the false information was published because the journalist didn't act responsibly and wanted to get the breaking story out.

This release of misinformation tarnished the image of this particular journalist. I bet that viewers will find it difficult to trust news from this source from now on.

In order to prevent these occurrences a website was founded called which focuses mainly on educating journalists to be responsible news sources. In addition to information on their website hosts conventions to inform journalists of how to avoid certain mistakes.

It's risky to be a minute to minute reporter. One can never be 100 percent sure if their information is true. Just because Joe the plumber spewed the information off doesn't necessarily make it credible.

Thats why it is important to make one extra phone call or email to fact check before releasing the news to the masses. To be a successful journalist when it comes to prompt reporting be responsible.

Being the first to Tweet the most interesting breaking news can be an exciting thrill, but make sure the facts are accurate. If not, all credibility could be lost.

Photo courtesy of Photo Bucket.


AP Style or Search Engine Optimization?

The AP Stylebook has been in existence for a considerable amount of time. It is important in order to ensure consistency amongst journalistic publications. But is its usefulness beginning to wane as publications transition into online formats?

There are many reasons to like the AP Stylebook, including the reasons found on this list by a professor from Kansas University. There have been many instances in this accelerated semester where I have had to reference this book. The information contained within is incredible, even breaking down individual sports terms. Helpful lists such as this, covering baseball terms, can help spread the word to bloggers to increase the consistency of journalism.

But is AP Style worthwhile online?

There may be a more important focus to consider when writing for an online format. In order to improve readership, a website is recommended to utilize Search Engine Optimization (SEO). This is the use of strong, relevant keywords within articles and websites that will place you higher and more frequently in search results. The end result would be more readers having a chance to click upon your website.

If the popular search is "base ball" instead of "baseball" and "web site" instead of "website", following the AP Styleguide could mean losing thousands of potential readers. Citizen journalists, who choose not to follow any style but their own, will see increased readership over the legitimate, professional journalists.

Is it almost time to consider changing to SEO instead of AP for online journalism? I think it makes enough sense that a strong case could be argued. What do you think?

For more information on the SEO and its uses for journalists, check out an article from the Online Journalism Review and this blog that writes about SEO for Journalists.

Pictures courtesy of creative commons.


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