There is no doubt that the web has changed the world and practically revolutionized how information is stored, published, searched and consumed. Marketers are now able to reach clients instantaneously, and also be more strategic in their methods of approach, using social media. Journalists are not excluded from this evolving phenomenon. They too are now learning to navigate their way through the policies and ethics of social media, fast becoming influential as a communication and news-breaking tool.
In the days of traditional media reporting, a journalist was given a lead or went out to find a story. Today, many stories are received third hand (sometimes even fourth or fifth hand) on various social media platforms, twitter being the most used. In many instances, by the time a story is assigned to the reporter, the story in some form or another is already out there in the social media universe. A good example is the news about the death of Michael Jackson in 2009, Facebook and Twitter users broke the story ahead of any major news network. Looking locally, the recent death of prominent journalists, Gary Spaulding, twitter users broke the news first. What then does this mean for societies whose democracy support press freedom? It means that the gatekeeper role is no longer the job of journalists and media practitioners. The interactive culture of social media has now removed that wall which separates the reader from the journalist.
Smart technology has now put in the hands of citizens, smart devices which gives them the power to report on events or situations of horror. Social media users are both receiving and giving real-time commenting as it breaks, using social media platforms, such as Periscope, Snapchat and the Facebook live video feature. The recent killings in the United States, where one incident was captured and reported via Facebook live, is but one example of just how social media is changing the way we receive breaking news, making reporters out of mere citizens.