Social Media big news @media2010

Social media was big news at the Media 2010 conference, popping up in almost every presentation from its potential use in journalism, to marketing and advertising. From the amount of iPhone and laptop screens illuminated the crowd and the fact that the Media 2010 conference became the fifth most popular topic in Australia on Twitter - the speakers where preaching to the converted.

Due to a shortage of time, the Q&A segment of the conference was lost. But the audience made sure their voices were heard on Twitter, with participants making comments and jokes, asking questions and answering them, posting Twitter Pics and links to relevant sites.

There was initial confusion over the appropriate hash tag, (#media_2010 or #media2010) which was all solved through Tweeting, though many used both throughout the day.

At the Media 2010 conference, Twitter and Facebook were the most common social networking sites referred to. Although much time was spent talking about the revolutionary impact of these tools for news gathering and reaching audiences, there were a few moments when social networking sites and their potential power were put into perspectives.

Mooed Ahmad, head of new media at Al Jazeera, spoke about how during the riots in Tehran, thousands of tweets were coming out of the capital with information about what was happening on the ground. However, when Al Jazeera went back and checked the validity of each Twitter account they found that out of all of the people tweeting out of Iran, there were only 60 people that could have physically been in Tehran at that time. Al Jazeera had found that many of the people claiming to be in Tehran had miraculously gone from sitting in a cafe in Manhattan to being on the streets of Tehran within minutes. This example is a reminder that as journalists source checking is vital, even when using sources from social networking sites.

On top of the potential unreliability of information on social networking for journalistic purposes, Suzanne Stefanac, Director, American Film Institute’s Digital Content Lab, quoted Ferial Haffajee, the editor of the Mail and Guardian newspaper in South Africa who said: “The reality in South Africa is that while some of the population might be tweeting, the other half is not eating.”

Although Twitter can be viewed as an amazing organic, democratic tool, both Mooed Ahmad and Suzanne Stefanac gave interesting perspective which highlight the limitations of Twitter as a journalistic tool, a perspective which can often be lost in among the hype.

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