Personali-tweet: Journalists and Personal Use of Twitter

The following is the online version of my final paper for Journalism 117.

Introduction

Before 2006, journalists, in carrying out their work, presented on television, reported on the radio and wrote articles in newspapers and their online counterparts almost exclusively. Six years later, they have begun tweeting too.

The Oriella Digital Journalism 2013 conducted a study about the role and impact of digital media in newsrooms and news-gathering worldwide, surveying over 500 journalists in a span of 14 countries. The same study has been conducted repeatedly over the last six years and this year’s results showed that journalists’ personal use of social media is growing. From 47%, the percentage of journalists who tweet grew to 59%.

The purpose of this research is to look into the social media activity of journalists via the micro-blogging site Twitter; describe how social media editors perceive the journalist’s use of Twitter; interview the journalists themselves about their usage of the tool; and determine whether the credibility of the journalists get impacted – positively or negatively – when they use Twitter by asking people who follow these news personalities, all in the effort to understand its implications to the profession of journalism.

Twitter is a micro-blogging site that was created by Jack Dorsey in 2006 and would later see development in 2007 with the help of a technical team in San Francisco. At the onset, what Twitter asked a straightforward question: “What are you doing?” in 140 characters or less. The question has now changed to ask: “What’s happening?”

You want to know what’s happening? Ask a journalist.

Reporters now routinely tweet from all kinds of events — speeches, meetings and press conferences, sports events. This is a testament to the kind of impact Twitter has had in the way traditional media agencies obtain data and produce news, much in the same way that it has impacted how audiences shape their opinions about the events that happen around them (San Jose, 2009).

Twitterjournalism.com lists ten advantages that the micro-blogging site offers. They say Twitter is:

  1. Free
  2. Happening real time.
  3. Has the potential to grow audience.
  4. Showcases various voices and viewpoints.
  5. Has global reach.
  6. Makes us of tip service.
  7. Composed of eyewitness accounts.
  8. Raw (unprocessed)
  9. Makes information available by linking.
  10. Democratizes the news.

This paper already acknowledges the assumption that journalists have recognized these advantages and are aware of the ways they could maximize the site in getting the job done.

But what happens when Twitter is used for personal purposes?

Policies around Twitter Use

It appears that the media organizations asked the same question too. We got hold of ABS-CBN News and Current Affairs Division’s Social Media Guidelines, where the “professional” and “personal” use of Twitter and other social network sites is explicitly underlined.

The network’s social media guidelines are rather straightforward and is explained in six sections – cardinal rules, basic ethical rules, professional versus personal use, guidelines in gathering, publishing and airing news via social media, engagement, blogs and sanctions.

The cardinal rules state that the network should have stories posted on the main website (ABS-CBN.com) before the same is posted in social media sites such as Twitter. Breaking news will have to go through superior or “minders” before seeing publication. If we look closely, this seems to suggest the level at which social media (Twitter included) lies in if placed in a hierarchy along with traditional media – a level that is comparably lower.

Ethics is another component that found its way in the network’s social media guidelines, and is no different from what the network has already promulgated within the organization. The guidelines advise the journalists to apply basic journalism ethics – balance, fairness, verification, etc. – when producing digital content. “When in doubt, ask” is a final recommendation. It would be interesting to see when the network eventually works the social media component to the formal Ethics Manual, or if they even have any plans of doing so at all.

The fact that the copy of ABS-CBN’s social media guidelines arrived in a .pdf format of what appears to be a slide presentation could say it could take a longer time before the ethic books get rewritten.

Journalists are free to use their Twitter accounts for both professional and personal purposes and the network’s recommendation is rather simple – to not “write anything on social media network sites that you cannot write in your public report or say in a public event.”

There are two questions being raised here: Is social media, such as Twitter, not as “public” as the other domains like television? And what does exactly constitutes being “public” for the network?

Personal opinion and preferences should not appear on the journalists’ social media accounts, rather opinion pieces and analysis. Any talks about a colleague or other company internal issues are also prohibited from being discussed in the social media sphere so as not to “undermine the credibility of ABS-CBN.”

Staff and personal who are found to be in violation of the guidelines could be subjected to appropriate disciplinary and remedial measures, up to and including termination of engagement. The guidelines, however, do not distinguish between the different offenses and does not identify which ones carry heavier weight than others.

Social Media Editorship

But how much do the guys behind these guidelines know about social media? Interaksyon.com’s Social Media Editor Roberto Basilio thinks probably not a lot. “Anyone who thinks they know social media is a fool,” he shares. Even though his job title suggests expertise in the field of social media, he admits to non-expertise at all.

He first joined Interaksyon.com under the job title National Media Correspondent, whose main job was to handle the organization’s Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Does he think that Twitter, when used for personal purposes by the journalists, impact their credibility? “It’s humanizing,” he said. He explained that with the journalists’ relatively independent control of their social media accounts, they get to perform the role of a Community Media Manager in that they get to respond to comments and feedback of audience to content produced by the media organization they are affiliated with.

Asked if there have been instances when journalists have been found in the violation of the social media guidelines, he cited an example where one of their journalists brought an alleged issue of plagiarism by another news organization through Twitter. According to him, that was one perfect example of when a journalist should hold back from discussing via a social media platform. Commenting on a competitor’s error in reporting is another topic he cited that he wants their journalists to refrain from bringing up via Twitter. “Meron kasing iba na nang-iintriga pa.”

He acknowledges though that the journalists do contribute to driving traffic to the main website, Interaksyon.com, but argues that it does not do so very significantly. “Mas Facebook kasi tayo as a nation e, we are obsessed with likes.” Traffic for them is mostly generated via Interaksyon’s Facebook page. Journalists are encouraged to re-tweet blurbs generated by the organizations main twitter account (@Interaksyon.)

Tweeting incorrect information and responding to a tweet made using an incorrect account are just two of his personal Twitter mistakes and he clarifies there have been no punitive consequences from upper management. The feedback mechanism in Twitter is also something that adds value to the profession. “There is engagement in social media, and as media professionals we’d like that.”

Do the journalists’ biases become apparent when Twitter is used for personal purposes? “Bias for what’s going to be viral” he explained, is a requirement in Twitter and other social media platforms.

“It was a bit indulgent,” he answered, when asked what his opinions are on the issue of Ces Drilon who tweeted a screen capture of death threat she received via SMS after airing an Ampatuan-related story in her late night newscast. He thought she could have taken a different approach and let the issue be known to organizations like the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) without having to go through Twitter first.

Likha Cuevas, a business reporter for Interaksyon.com, maintains a twitter account and estimates that 90% of the time her Twitter activity involves work-related tweets. Social media is a tool that she sees can help her get the job done but would go offline for anything that involves personal matters.

An undergraduate thesis at the College of Mass Communicated surveyed 100 random Filipino Twitter users on their use of Twitter as a news source. Majority of them (96%) found Twitter an effective source of news with only a few who regarded it as neither effective nor ineffective. The top reasons for them preferring Twitter as a news source is that news is delivered fast, the media is accessible and is capable of easily directing them to multimedia content. (San Jose, 2009)

But what do they think of journalists who write personal tweets?

I conducted a small focus group discussion with eight students from the College of Mass Communication, from various year levels, who follow journalists in Twitter. Their primary motivation for following journalists on Twitter is because of their individual popularity, only followed by their credibility. This is parallel to the general culture of Twitter usage among the youth, uncovered by another undergraduate thesis. According to Agor (2010), following someone on Twitter is highly personality-based rather than content-based.

What surprised me was when the respondents said that, while they have observed biased tweets from the journalists they follow, their credibility as professionals remain untarnished. “Palagi naman kasing may bias, hindi na mawawala ‘yon,” said Janelle Dilao, a second-year Journalism student from the College of Mass Communication.

One example that was brought up during the discussion was when GMA-7 reporters tweeted about the “rape” joke made by Vice Ganda during his concert, commenting that it was outright insensitive. The comedic sketch involved a GMA-7 executive Jessica Soho. “Siyempre, their loyalty, automatic nasa network nila,” commented Gail Castillo, a fourth-year Broadcast Communication major, adding that she understood why the reporters tweeted the way they did.

Conclusion

Social media, particularly Twitter, is an entirely different arena and does not carry the same standards expected of journalists as say television, radio, or newspapers. The apparent lack of third-party regulation is potentially a factor why social media accounts are considered relatively lower than their traditional media counterparts.

Bias is apparent in personal tweets of journalists and the audience appears to be aware of such bias. Tweeting personal tweets, however, does not affect their credibility significantly, even though there are instances when they could become “indulgent.”

Media organizations maintain a policy around of social media but the guidelines are rarely the hard-and-fast rule kind. There have been very light, if any, sanctions to violations committed. Organization’s like Interaksyon like to take a more libertarian approach to implementing their policies.

Twitter makes the journalists accessible to their audience and they could stand to gain helpful feedback because of the engagement that the micro-blogging site offers. It could contribute to a journalist’s career by being a venue for promotion of journalistic work that may or may not be affiliated with their employer network.

APPENDIX

ABS-CBN’s Social Media Guidelines (copied from a PDF file sent by Victoria Mendoza, a social media associate at ABS-CBN News and Current Affairs Division).

Cardinal Rules

  • Notify minders first on breaking news.
  • Air first on Channel 2, ANC, and post on ABS-CBN.com before posting on social media networks.
  • Consult superiors/minders on live tweets or live blogs (to be managed by ABS-CBN.com)

Basic Ethical Rules

  • Basic journalism ethics also apply to news presence in digital media (balance, fairness, verification, etc. as specified in the Ethics Manual)
  • When in doubt, ask.

Professional versus Personal

  • Personal blogs or tweets represent the journalists to the outside world.
  • Do not write anything on social media network sites that you cannot write in your public report or say in a public event.
  • Post analysis and opinion pieces, not emotions.

Gathering, Publishing and Airing News

  • Social media networks are great in spreading news but lack in reliability.
  • A big number of people tweeting same messages doesn’t mean the message is true.
  • Do not re-tweet or share post without verifying the source.
  • No place in news for unchallenged or unconfirmed reports.
  • If authorities deny a message that’s been tweeted by a number of people, verify (sic) offline or refer to desk.
  • Be transparent. Do not use fake identity, avatar, or be anonymous. You are responsible for what you say.
  • Conduct yourself responsibly in social media forums.
  • Always request permission before using shared material (ex. Photos, videos, content)
  • If we make mistakes in posting reports, corrections should be made immediately. Mistakes should be acknowledged and explained.
  • Updates and corrections should be posted in headlines (CORRECTION: Post Message Here)
  • Do not issue a single correction post. Repost regularly.
  • Do not write post, tweet about the company and colleagues so as not to undermine the credibility of ABS-CBN.
  • Do not write, post, tweet personal opinion or preferences, especially on issues you report on. This may result in public perception of bias.

References:

Theses

Agor, J. L. G. (2010). A little birdie told me: Twitter as the new news medium based on a survey of 150 college students, Unpublished Undergraduate Thesis, University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City.

Manlunas, M. (2012) Worldwide Trend Participation: A Descriptive Study of Twitter Use Among Filipino Digital Natives. Unpublished Undergraduate Thesis. University of the Philippines Diliman. University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication.

San Jose, D.V.A. (2011). Short & Tweet: A Uses & Gratifications Study of Twitter Use for Local News. Unpublished Undergraduate Thesis. University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication.

Online Sources       

The New Normal for News: Have Global Media Changed Forever? (2013). Fromhttp://www.oriellaprnetwork.com/sites/default/files/research/Brands2Life_ODJS_v4.pdf. Accessed on October 8, 2013.

The Transition to Digital Journalism.http://multimedia.journalism.berkeley.edu/tutorials/digital-transform/twitter-and-microblogging/. Accessed on October 11, 2013.

The Twitter Explosion. From http://www.ajr.org/article.asp?id=4756. Accessed on October 8, 2013.

Integrity in Twitter, Journalism and Now Media. Fromhttp://www.openthedialogue.com/2009/06/integrity-in-twitter-journalism-and-now-media/. Accessed on October 8, 2013.

The Impact of Twitter on Journalism. From http://devour.com/video/the-impact-of-twitter-on-journalism/. Accessed on October 11, 2013.

Changing Terrains: The Online Journalism Landscape in Southeast Asia

Back when I was in high school, the student-to-computer ratio was nowhere near 1:1. It never crossed my mind that, just over a decade later, people would start to own multiple devices and have access to the news via the Internet.

A documentary entitled Online Journalism in Southeast Asia looked into similar revolutions in the countries of Singapore, Cambodia and Malaysia and tells how traditional journalists adapt to the the new medium that is the Internet, and how the younger generation rely on the Internet more and more for their news needs.

Same Goods, Different Package

A study in 2008 by the Newspaper Association of America called Youth Media DNA reveals that the youth maintain a high interest in current events, and that they could potentially become “lifelong readers or audience” if the news organizations make the move to address the specific needs of younger people.

That has already happened.

In Singapore, Razor TV tries hard to packages their content to make it more appealing to the youth. Malaysia’s Star make their fashion and lifestyle content available online while Cambodia Express News makes the efforts to make Khmer news content known in the internet. While advances in technology put Singapore and Cambodia at opposite ends of a spectrum, there’s not much difference in the way the younger generation of both countries look to the internet for their news needs.

Traditional journalists are now finding ways to make the content more attractive to the youth by adding videos and creating a more interactive experience for the users.

Same Actors, Different Stage

A stage actor who decides to move on to do television acting is not any less of an actor than his thespian colleagues.

There’s not a lot of difference in how online journalists insist that they are still journalists who abide by the same principles of journalism and that the medium they work for should not make them any less credible than traditional journalists.

Sure, they get more exposure via their blogs and via twitter, away from the confines of their newspaper columns or broadcast airtime but the added “presence” serves as an outlet for supplementary information or news that don’t gets edited out in the mainstream. The documentary also tells that online journalists get to interact with the audience more directly, and that could just lead to them working more improving the way they present their content.

New Actors

People get to participate in the development of stories either as sources and when they produce their own content as well.

The documentary shows that people respond well to news content produced by their peers and I think much of this confidence comes from the fact that citizen journalism enjoys far more freedom that what would normally come out of traditional media, which is still heavily reliant on each news agency’s agenda setting practices.

Instituting Subscriptions

Online journalists agree that they are struggling in terms of generating profit out of online content they produce, and that a viable business model is yet to show any promise in increasing the cash flow.

Back to the Youth Media DNA study, respondents said that they are willing to pay for online news content but at what cost, I think we all have to stay tune and find out.

Do we see traditional media content such as newspapers and TV/radio broadcasts phased out in the next 10 years? Online journalists have a mix of responses. Some say we are going to see a major shift to just the Internet as the preferred medium, while others say both mediums will continue to supplement each other in the years to come.

Call-to-Action

I think we are at the stage where the Internet is established a medium of choice, for reasons such as its accessibility as well as the speed at which content is delivered.

Online journalism has already started to mobilize people to take action about the content they receive. One good example I can think of is the Million People March that happened on August 26 in Luneta, organized mainly by netizens who flood their Facebook News Feeds and Twitter Timelines with content from online media about the PDAF or Pork Barrel issue.

I’m excited to see what else is to come.

Journalism In The Time of Social Media

Social Media and the News Values

Social media enhances the journalistic value that is timeliness. Live tweeting and live blogging, for example, have allowed for almost instant delivery, outdoing radio and television in some cases where reporters are unavailable to cover stories.

This boost in timeliness, however, changes the way content is verified. Accuracy often suffers, and there is inconsistent follow through. I noticed that social media also hasn’t been elevated to the status where the audience receive it as the source of gospel truth.  One still has to confirm via a ‘reputable’ news organization before taking something out of Twitter as true.

In social media, newsworthiness is challenged. Almost anything becomes relevant. Unlike the ABC block of a news broadcast or the front page of a newspaper, social media content lacks hierarchy and has that anything-goes, free-for-all feel to it.  In this sense, the audience loses that sense of focus on a particular issue or story. On the upside, because of lack of airtime limits and the pressure of a word count, social media allows journalists to publish stories that would usually fall on the wayside in traditional media.

Impacts to Traditional Journalism

Almost everyone becomes an expert in almost anything where social media is concerned, and I think one milestone is that we now have an engaged, highly participatory audience via citizen journalism.

Just a few years ago, local news programs like TV Patrol and 24 Oras, would have text polls to get audience pulse on issues and top stories of the day. These days, tweets line up the marquees of most news broadcasts.

Indeed, gone are the days when letters to the editor are the only form of feedback journalists get. Feedback is almost instantaneous and discussions could spread like wildfire.

What’s next?

As I mentioned earlier, I still think there’s some room for growth in terms of credibility. One way to achieve credibility is through some form of regulation or monitoring, not far from what traditional media is subjected too.

There should also be some effort to professionalize of careers related to social media. While one Forbes article think that any job title that has social media in it is not a career, I still think it can be give

In the next ten years, I expect that more people will have access to social media content, and that content will have more variety to accommodate the marginalized.

Social media should strive to uphold responsibility and keep the values of journalism intact.

The Extra on Ekstra: Ate Vi’s Cinemalaya 2013 Premiere

Cinemalaya Lobby

The lobby of the Cultural Center of the Philippines is packed with indie film enthusiasts during the premiere night of Ekstra (Photo by the blogger)

“Salamat po sa pagpunta, kahit umuulan, kahit bumabaha, at kahit alam n’yong ekstra lang naman si Ate Vi sa pelikulang ito…” (Thanks for coming, in spite of the rains and floods, and even if you all know that Ate Vi is only a bit player in this film.)

These were the words of Jeffrey Jeturian, the director of Ekstra (The Bit Player) where Batangas Governor Vilma Santos plays the title role in his opening spiel during the premiere night at the CCP Main Theatre.

The film’s day-in-the-life-of handle follows the story of Loida Malabanan (played by Vilma), an “extra” in a high-rating, primetime daily soap opera. It is one of the entries in this year’s Cinemalaya Film Festival under the Directors Showcase Category.

Stills from Ekstra on the day's papers (Photo by the blogger)

Stills from Ekstra on the day’s papers (Photo by the blogger)

Ekstra is the veteran actress’s first independent film project. Jeturian recalls having first worked with Vilma Santos when he was a newbie production assistant for the movie Baby China, and had since dreamed of directing the Star for All Seasons. “After 20 year, natupad po ang pangarap ko…” (After 20 years, my dream came true.)

There in support of the indie film festival were actors who are indie regulars/newbies themselves — Melanie Marquez, Maria Isabel Lopez and daughter Mara, Mon Confiado, Solenn Heussaff, Cherie Gil, among others.

Support

Also there to escort Ate Vi was newly-elected Senate President Pro-Tempore Senator Ralph Recto, with son Ryan Christian; and TV host Luis Manzano with girlfriend Jennlyn Mercado.

Minutes before the film screening, the senator spent some time with the media. “Ang naalala ko, teenager ako when I first saw a movie she was in,” he begins, as he answers the question of which of his wife’s movies is his favorite movie of all time.

The Rectos

The Rectos (photo by the blogger)

Just a few steps behind the senator is his son, Ryan Christian, who seem to be busy doing some press work himself.

Like father, like son - Sen. Ralph Recto and Ryan Christian Recto work the media simultaneously. (Photo by the blogger.)

Like father, like son – Sen. Ralph Recto and Ryan Christian Recto work the media simultaneously. (Photo by the blogger.)

But perhaps the strongest applause,  the hardest laughs, and loudest cheers of the night came from the solid Vilmanians.

Felicidad Pua, or Tita Fe, made sure that her grandchildren’s school clothes were neatly ironed before leaving her home in Padre Faura, Manila. She looked neat too, wearing a Vilma 50th Showbiz Anniversary Shirt, while holding a magazine where Ate Vi is cover. After all, it was a big night for her, her fellow Vilmanians and their icon.

Proof of Vilmanian identity (Photo by the blogger)

Proof of Vilmanian identity (Photo by the blogger)

Tita Fe is a member of the Vilma Santos Solid International Inc. (VSSI), an organization of Vilmanians devoted to support the actress-politician’s every endeavor. She claims they have a thousand-strong membership roster, with members coming from all over the world.

The group is also actively campaigning to have Vilma Santos declared as National Artist.

Judging by her faded VSSI photo card, it wasn’t hard to believe when she said she has been a Vilmanian for well over three decades. (I wonder if Twilight fanatics can remain faithful to their fandom for just as long.)

After learning that this blogger is from UP, she said she was there too, when Vilma Santos received the Gawad Plaridel recognition by the College of Mass Communication back in 2005.

VSSI shirt 2

Wear it proudly: The Vilmanians’ 50th Anniversary Shirt (photo by the blogger)

Tita Fe said she arrived with other VSSI folks in serviced vehicles with members coming from as far as the provinces Ilocos and Pampanga. Most of them were wearing the annniversary shirt (photographed above) in either black or yellow.

I asked how she liked the film after seeing it, and she smiles before replying “Kailangan pa bang itanong ‘yan.”

And I smiled back. There I was right after a film starring Ate Vi, asking a Vilmanian whether she liked the film she just saw.

Just before we ended, she reminded me to cast my ballot and vote for the film as Audience Choice. I said I will.

And I did. I may have turned into a Vilmanian without knowing it.

Nailing It: The Not-So-Polished Life of A Cosmetologist

I didn’t think I could do it when I found out yesterday that the class was asked to do field interviews. At least I didn’t think I was physically able to. I just came out from an all-nighter at the office, where I helped put out a big-ass fire, before heading straight to class. I was only half-awake.

But when life gives you lemons, you make lemon candies and that’s exactly what I did.

Field day became a good excuse to see my ever-reliable, go-to pedicurist ahead of our usual Sunday fortnightly affair. I reasoned that I was only being efficient — getting the interview and the pedicure at the same time was a win-win.

So after briefly chatting with Tetel, the only other classmate who didn’t get the field day notification in advance, I hailed a cab and took off before consciousness completely deserted me.

—————————

She nails it every time. And quite literally, too.

When I got there, she was already finishing up with a client – a brutish man who, if not for the fact that he was getting his nails done on both hands and feet, you would be advised to avoid in a narrow alley on a late, dark night.

Her face registered a slight surprise when she noticed me enter the salon. Immediately and in her dialect, she barked an order to one of the therapists who instantly vacated his seat for me.

Upo ka muna, girl,” she gestured in a soft, accented voice.

Mae Gutlay, 36, lives the kind of life people would only often find depicted in episodes of Maalala Mo Kaya.

At the tender age of 12, shortly after graduating from grade school, young Mae packed her bags and bid her hometown in Cagayan de Oro City goodbye. She was going to live in Bambang, Manila with her aunt who would send her to high school. In return, she was expected to help with the household chores. She didn’t mind. She was going to live in the big, old, imperial capital. She was going to chase her dreams.

Four years later, these dreams would be whisked away from her.

Still very young at 16, she got pregnant with her first child. Fearing her family’s fury if they found out, she eloped with her husband and lied low in an off-the-grid-town in Masbate.

Asked where her husband is now, she replied jokingly, “Sumakabilang-bahay na.” She laughed out loud after, as if to cushion herself from the blow of a bitter past that a stranger just asked her to relive.

She had seven children with the man but only five are alive to this day. Her third and fifth both had heart complications and didn’t live past the age of two. You would think the odds are not in her favor. Yes? No.

It is her first child who’s making her heart swell with pride every day.

Now a 19-year old, her son is in the United States studying under a sponsorship from a Christian couple who they got to know in their tiny church in Masbate. Her son along with the town’s other bright students have been receiving support from the charitable couple since high school. And when the now African-based Christian couple declared they could only send one student to college, it was his son who got picked.

Kagabi lang tumawag, nag-i-English English. Sabi ko, ‘Anak duduguin ang ilong ko n’yan.” The room rang with more of her infectious laughter.

Mae, no doubt, is a good at what she does. She owes her cosmetic skills to her mother, who’s also a cosmetologist. She practically grew up around nail polishes, pushers, nippers and clippers.

But what she’s even better at is being who she is — a single mother who, despite having faced life’s many tribulations, remains resilient and cheerful.

She nails down both roles perfectly.

Mae with the brutish guy, her first customer that day

Mae with the brutish guy, her first customer that day