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Social Media: The verdict.

Old skool v new media

We had another great CIPR Greater London Group event last night with BBC Head of Online Journalism Pete Clifton, Telegraph.co.uk Shane Richmond and PR Blogger Stephen Davis discussing the impact of social media on journalism and PR.

Facebook group members sent questions that were posed to the panel.

We had a very good debate and a lot of counter points from both sides of the fence.

The first question picked up on a leaked story that appeared in Press Gazette that said that The Guardian, of all places, was going to cut back its numbers of traditional reporters in order to focus more on new media.

The view was that The Guardian was doing what The Daily Telegraph had done in preparation of its move to Victoria a few years back. Both Pete and Shane stated that integrated newsrooms are the way forward and that the days of the traditional journalism were ending.

Stephen made a great point that PRs are just, well, lagging behind stubborn old hacks in adopting new media and social networking. Petedid share with us his experience in getting the BBC to change the way that it’s newsroom works. Really, as I understood it, a case of dragging a child kicking and screaming forward.

We then went on to discuss if social media has the potential to restore trust in the media?

Social media was very much running a tightrope, between gossip that media can’t run because of the lawyers. Having said this media organisations now find themselves with a tool that can tell it readers and viewers why they have decided to make such an editorial decision. High profile journalists like Robert Peston and Nick Robinson can go into detail on a story that they are running. Pete Clifton gave the prime example of how the BBC Political Editor Nick Robinson ran a story from the White House on his blog from his blackberry. A case of where social media gave him the opportunity of reporting a gaff by President Bush as it happened. The result of which led the White House Press Office from effectively banning him.

But what about non-aligned bloggers that are not members of the media pool? Well, as was said, they have a duty of been as careful about their stories as trained journalists, especially those that have good authority ratings. Getting stories right is a must for everybody.

Interestingly enough though when Stephen Davis was asked who would he give a story to, a journalist or a blogger with a high-authority rating – only choosing one of the two, Stephen said a journalist (he wanted to issue a story to both). Shane came in and asked why not a blogger first given that they are, to all intense and purposes, a journalist.

Finally that tool of our trade came in for debate, the press release, or as it often is, the pr release, given that they are often written in dour language. The question was, is it dead?

The answer, well, as you’d expect was a no. Not yet. Sending cold press releases to journalists is a no, yet the same thing is done to bloggers. And the results aren’t just bad for relations, they can be damaging. The rule of thumb is, develop a relationship with them, ask them if they want to receive press releases, treat them as individuals. Email them as people. Bloggers are influential, like leading columnists. So treat them with respect.

So a lot of debate, a lot of dicussion, some controversy and an equal amount of profanity. All in all, another great night, so if you missed it and want to come to the next event then join the  Facebook group, and we’ll see you soon.

Heathrow Terminal 5, unlucky for some

Social Media: The Assassin or Saviour of Traditional Media?