Even though recreational social media usage may be on the decline in some ways, more "functional" uses of social media, and its purposes, are on the rise through the use of "social journalism."
The current state of journalism looks quite differently than it did just years ago, and the creation of social media sites has evolved the field of journalism even further, giving the average person the power to make and report the news like never before. We get our news instantly now, and most of that news comes via social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. With the rise of social media as a means to obtain and share news and information has also come the emergence of social news networks. Social news networks are online publications that work as a community of writers and editors that choose what news is, and what's not. Described as a sort of "news bank," social news websites like Reddit and Digg allow users to submit news stories, articles, pictures and videos to share with other users. Editors then determine the items to be featured. For contributing writers, these publications are excellent ways to get noticed, and for editors, it's a great way to experience more journalistic freedom and possibly make an impact on the larger news media circuit. And many of these stories go viral, bringing a few minutes of fame to potentially unknown writers or publications.
Just this past month, eBay founder and creator of the news organization First Look Media, Pierre Omidyar, launched a new social journalism project with the goal of bringing "global news directly to you through social media" while encouraging a community of readers to participate by pitching stories and using social media to comment and share. This new effort by Omidyar, called Reported.ly, is a new project that will "use a team of professional journalists to sift through social media to deliver important global news, using the same social platform," with full editorial independence. This is big news considering Omidyar's other online publication, The Intercept, founded in February of 2014, is the platform used to report on the documents released by Edward Snowden.
Sites like this and many others are a natural emergence considering the number of social media sites available for use to share and contribute stories, and one must wonder: what's the future of major media news sites like NBC, CNN and Fox News? For years, the term "citizen journalism" has been used to describe the reporting of news by citizens, instead of professional reporters. The idea of citizens as news makers got its start during major events like the Arab Spring and the Occupy Wall Street movement where journalists were not always present. Using tools like Twitter, average people became newsmakers, and social networking has increased the prevalence of citizen journalism, making it possible for anyone to report the news, and most of the time quicker than major news networks who would have to send a reporter and photographer. While it's not necessary a "phenomenon," social news networks are changing the way news is manufactured and delivered and while some major news publications are embracing citizen journalism, time will only tell what the overall impact on journalism as a whole will be.