Rating SNS Users Influence and Expertise for Sourcing
The rapid emergence of social network sites in the last decade has created ample opportunities for users to connect with broad communities and engage in various forms of information sharing (boyd & Ellison, 2008). Increasingly, users have integrated these sites into their daily experiences, often turning to them for news consumption and content generation (Pew Research, 2015).
Furthermore, the widespread adoption of social network sites, aided in part by the accessibility of mobile phone technology, has enabled users to participate in the “observation, filtering, distribution, and interpretation of news” (Hermida, Lewis, & Zamith, 2014, p. 481), effectively disrupting the boundaries between consumption and production. This convergence has facilitated the necessity of journalists to become more apt at synchronizing, aggregating, triangulating, and curating information, rather than serving as gatekeepers of it.
As a result, I foresee crowd participation in the news production process becoming more prevalent in the future. This is evidenced by the inclusion of tweets and Facebook posts in articles and stories, as well as identifying top social media influencers as credible sources and contributors on topics and issues that are progressively mediated within social network sites.
This process, at this juncture, remains muddy and underexplored; however, as digital news becomes more salient due to the affordances and reach of the Internet, network changes in the journalism industry, and the alteration of journalism business models, crowds and online communities will become more integrated into news gathering, production, and diffusion processes.
I project a future journalism that embraces what I have explained above and evolves accordingly. More specifically, as new media technologies continue to expand our opportunities for journalism and strengthen our abilities to connect with broader, globalized audiences, new systems of valuation must be adopted that (1) acknowledge social network sites as spaces where social phenomena unfold in tangible ways; and therefore, are viable spaces where news “happens” and can be developed; (2) identify social media users as “social actors” capable of sharing relevant knowledge (experiential, studied, etc.) with varying levels of expertise and validity. Ultimately, I anticipate the creation of a system or device, based on the system of valuation described above, that allows users to disclose interests and expertise in various topical areas, while connecting them with journalists working on related stories.