Social media is no substitute for journalism, says CNN

Hyperbole is the norm when speaking about social media.  Pundits ask with customary drama ‘Is it killing journalism?’  Others favouring sports analogies declare ‘it’s a game changer’.  Our view has always been that social media is an additional – admittedly complex and important – communication channel.  So it’s interesting to hear that Tony Maddox, executive vice president and managing director of CNN International, feels the same way.

In a recent interview, Maddox talks about how social media has very quickly become an accepted part of the news gathering process.  Citing examples such as the Arab Spring and last year’s riots in the UK, Maddox says that social media provides an ‘integral dynamic to many stories’, but it is in no way a substitute for real journalism.

“Social media has been a key ingredient in the seismic changes we’ve seen across the Middle East and as journalists we cannot ignore this, or fail to be excited by it. But equally I think we have to be wary about how we use it. Social media is no substitute for professional journalism, and in many ways its increasing prominence makes the rigour and experience of professional newsgathering organisations more important than ever.

“So I think our approach at CNN is the same as it has always been, in that we look to as many sources as possible to get the fullest picture of the story for our audience, and that includes social media. But as always we call on the skill, training and professionalism of our editorial staff to ensure we give a full and factual account of a story. We also use social media to communicate with our audiences – our journalists use Twitter enthusiastically and many have tens of thousands of followers – and we use it, alongside other media, to break stories.”

We find a similar view among senior UK communicators in the Business Leaders in Communication Study 2012 http://www.blcs2012.com/ , our ground-breaking study of the UK communications industry which publishes next Tuesday 24 January.  When asked to select the ‘most important challenge for communications’ in their organisation over the next two years, 30% responded ‘number and complexity of key audiences to be addressed’, while only 12% responded ‘the impact of managing social media on reputation’.  Similarly, ‘skills and experience in social media’ were ranked 7th on a list of 10 key skills senior communications are looking for in recruits over the next two years.

The Study is being launched at the Hospital Club in Covent Garden on 24th January.  For more info, visit http://www.vmagroup.com/news_and_community/events/view.php?id=6085 .