A new experiment in social media and journalism is taking place in a small barn in France. For the experiment, five journalists will live in isolation without internet connections, smart phones, print media, or any connection to the outside world – except a cell phone and a computer with a clear hard drive. The journalists will receive their news solely from Twitter and Facebook and will be asked to report their version of the news while following a number of rules (translated). Their story will live on a blog (not yet available) and on their Twitter account (translated version). The experiment will last five days and is being sponsored by the RFP French-language public broadcasters association.
The purpose of this experiment is to test whether or not social media tools are actually valuable media channels for receiving news and to test the legitimacy of the services as sources.
Now, just for the record, I don’t think people should only get their news from their friends and those that are not professional journalists, nor do I believe one should only get their news from two sources. But I’m going to play devil’s advocate here, just for a second.
Who’s to say what’s a legitimate news source?
I’m going to come out and say it. I receive much of my news from Facebook and Twitter. Especially related to deaths of famous persons, major court decisions, elections, and the weather even. Not to say that I don’t read “legitimate news sources,” and I realize it makes a difference who you’re friends with and the quality of information they’re exposed to. Being a fan of Barack Obama and Planned Parenthood on Facebook myself, I often get news about court decisions or events that I should be aware of. Are they “legitimate sources”?
Organizations and presidents aside, what’s wrong with learning about major events through social media — is that any different than learning about it from your neighbor as you pass them at the grocery store? Or your colleague as he reads aloud the latest headline on the BBC? I think not.