White Noise

by Jordan Green


If you’re like me, you learned about the death of Osama bin Laden through Facebook. And the instant outpouring of emotion, along with spontaneous analysis and punditry, by people you knew and respected made it seem somewhat pointless to generate any kind of journalistic “product” from the event. The story was all laid out on your Facebook page, complete with the informational nut graf and reaction quotes. Of course, the primary reporting had to be done by someone with boots on the ground in Pakistan or with sources in the Pentagon or State Department. But social media cut out the content producers in the secondary tier of professional journalism like me — the lazy ruminators.

That’s why it’s so surprising to read that today’s journalism students don’t view social media as legitimate. Devin Harner and Alexa Capeleto, journalism professors at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, write at the PBS web page Media Shift, that only one of their students said he first heard about bin Laden’s death through traditional media. In fact, he learned about it on Facebook, and then turned to CNN for the details. Further, the students were timid about using blogs, Facebook or YouTube to put their journalism into the public domain.

“Despite all the time they spend online, they’re behind the curve in terms of understanding the journalistic potential of social media,” Harner and Capeleto write. “In fact, some of them are reluctant to recognize the connection between legacy media and web 2.0, as if doing so, they’d be assuming a power best left to professionals.”