There's been a lot of talk over the last few years about the future of journalism. Social media appeared almost out of nowhere to challenge the journalism industry at a time when it was already struggling to keep up with the changes posed by the transition from print to the cyber sphere. The rise of social media and its impact on journalism is still not completely understood. For along with the rise of social media in newsrooms, we also saw the rise of the "citizen journalist".
Citizen journalists around the world continue to shine through the chaos of the news landscape, often providing us with the first insight into places journalists are unable to reach. And that can only be a good thing right? Why not have extra pairs of eyes that journalists can rely on? After all, journalists can't be everywhere all the time.
But social media has given rise to a new problem: too much information. Now that anyone with a smartphone can be the messenger of information, we find ourselves in the midst of endless Tweets and blog posts written by people from all over the world, each with a new bit of "information".
The Internet has, therefore, raised the question: Will this abundance of unreliable information make the average person more, or less, informed?
I can understand why some people would think that we might soon find ourselves surrounded by so much unverified information that we could potentially end up a lot less informed than we are today about the world around us. But, as a journalism student, I feel I must make my case for the future of journalism.
Firstly, it's important to remember that professional journalists are in fact very different from citizen journalists. Journalists are trained to report on events accurately and only state something as a fact if it has been verified as such. Citizen journalists hold no such responsibility. We will always need professionally trained journalists to verify the things that are posted on social media as "fact". So while we may be faced with an array of unreliable "news" on our Twitter and Facebook feeds, let's not forget that we can turn to real journalism to help guide us through this maze of information. Citizen journalists and the information they post won't make us less informed if we understand the sources of their information. If we continue to also rely on journalism (in its purest form) for information, we will definitely remain an informed society.
Another point to make is that this array of information is extremely useful in helping journalists in the newsroom. As mentioned above, journalists can't be everywhere at once and the extra pair of eyes doesn't hurt. But citizen journalists also contribute in another way: they force people to turn to newsrooms for the truth behind the stories we read on social media. Many of us have been scrolling through Twitter and have read something that interested us. We have then tuned to a news channel or website to verify it. In this way, the citizen journalist guides us off social media and back to the news.
But there is one final way in which I consider social media to have had a massive impact on the way that we consume our news. Social media - the platforms that once started out as a place to post about your parties and your lunches - is now so much more than that. Social media provides a platform to share information and engage in debates in a way that has never been done before. Even if you are someone who doesn't read the news regularly, you're no longer able to escape what's going on in the world because it's all over social media.
We're a society addicted to social media, but because of that we're also a society where it's impossible to remain ignorant. If you haven't heard the latest breaking news, it's safe to assume you have been living under a rock. It's these things combined that assure me we are going to be a much better informed society in the years to come: citizen journalists have given us eyes in even the most remote places in the world, social media ensures that we hear about everything, and journalists continue to work hard with citizen journalists and social media to provide us with all the information and facts we need. With those three things, it would be almost impossible to become an uninformed society.