Social media and the outbreak of citizen journalism


The increasing popularity of social media and the rise of citizen journalism is having an enormous impact on the way people receive the news. 

Matthew Winkler, co-founder and editor-in-chief of Bloomberg News, spoke to a group of journalism students at Southern Methodist University in Dallas Feb. 26 about the “Truth in the Age of Twitter.”

Winkler believes Twitter and other social media websites are having a negative impact on journalism. 

“The value of journalism is diminished by technology that allows us to obtain information or misinformation by a keystroke,” Winkler said. 

Winkler’s lecture pointed out just how important it is for journalists to sort through the massive amount of information trending on the Internet and discover the truth.

“A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes,” Winkler said.

Anybody with access to the Internet on a computer or smartphone can now play the role of a citizen journalist. Breaking news is reported within seconds via tweets and Facebook posts.

We no longer have to wait for the morning paper or nightly newscast to read or watch the news. With built-in cameras and video recorders in almost any cellphone, citizens can capture breaking news the moment it happens and publish the content online before news directors can send reporters to the scene. 

While instantaneous news sites may sound innovative and appealing, they make the job of journalists much more challenging. In order to be successful in the new media age, Winkler believes journalists should abide by the five “F’s” of journalism: Be the first, final, fastest, most factual and future word.

Anybody can send out a news tweet or create a blog, but that doesn’t necessarily make them a journalist. As I mentioned earlier, the true value of a journalist is their responsibility to the truth. The fastest news tweet or first reporter on scene doesn’t matter if the information published or broadcast isn’t verified.






Is automotive journalism relevant anymore?

Many readers and even journalists themselves are beginning to question the value of automotive journalism.

With the rise of citizen journalism and strategic communicators, Ray Wert of Jalopnik believes automotive journalists are no longer relevant to the industry.

“The PR teams do a pretty good job of regurgitating what they are saying on their own,” Wert said. “I don’t think they need a journalist to help them do that.”

While it’s true strategic communicators say all the right things about their company’s latest automotive creation, I believe Wert undervalues the need for truthful information and unbiased car reviews.

When readers pick up the latest issue of Motor Trend or Car and Driver, they aren’t looking for rehashed press releases that kiss the automotive manufacturers’ asses. They want truthful, honest reviews from journalists who have a shared passion for cars.

An article written by an automotive journalist must tell a story. While the review should focus predominantly on the car, it must also be entertaining and filled with the journalist’s personality and sense of humor.

This is something automotive strategic communicators cannot provide. They can only report vehicle specifications and new model features to the public. They are paid to put a positive spin on their company’s cars and defend them at all costs. It’s hard to believe a word they are saying because the truth is buried beneath company loyalties.

The world needs automotive journalists to seek out the truth about cars in an industry clouded by company lies and deceit. With cars being one of the most expensive purchases an individual makes in his or her lifetime, it isn’t something that should be taken lightly. As an automotive journalist, I hope to entertain readers by putting them behind the wheel and giving them the information they need to make an informed decision.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s epic slam


NBA Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar recently wrote a blog for The Huffington Post and critically reviewed HBO’s new hit series Girls.

In response to bad reviews about the show, creator/writer/director/star of the series Lena Dunham dismissed the criticism and inferred it was mostly coming from older men who didn’t understand the series.

However, Abdul-Jabbar pointed out the show’s single largest audience, 22 percent, is “white dudes over 50.” Abdul-Jabbar went on to accuse the show of being predominantly white and watching a full season could leave a viewer “snow blind.” When the show did implement characters of a different race, it was usually in discriminating roles.

Not surprisingly, his blog post quickly generated a lot of negative feedback. Many readers were furious. “How would an ex-jock know anything about pop-culture?” critics said. “Why would a man of his age watch a show about girls in their twenties?” Five days after writing the review, he published a response post to defend his position.

“What do people expect when an ex-jock discusses pop culture?” Abdul-Jabbar said. “Hmmm. Magic light box have good shows. Me like some. Others make me puke Gatorade. Me give it three jock straps.”

Abdul-Jabbar’s comedic post was the perfect response to the critics who bashed his review. In my opinion, his review was extremely honest and insightful. In response to the readers who questioned his integrity, Abdul-Jabbar pointed out he has a degree from UCLA and is an amateur historian who has written books about World War II, the Harlem Renaissance, and African-American Inventors.

As journalists and even readers, sometimes we are quick to judge a person by their appearance and actions due to our stereotypical nature. Abdul-Jabbar serves as the perfect example to never judge an individual until we know the entire story.

Automotive journalist Chris Harris commits career suicide

Jalopnik’s Chris Harris may be the most honest automotive journalist left in the profession. Unfortunately, Harris’ outspokenness may have cost him his job.

In an extremely enlightening article, Harris openly slams the Italian automaker Ferrari and accuses the company of lying to make its world renown cars appear better than they actually are.

Even a nice salary at one of the world most respected automotive journalism institutions couldn’t keep Harris quiet about the issue. While many automotive journalists are paid by car manufacturers to publish positive reviews about their cars, Harris was tired of being a puppet for Ferrari.

As a result, Harris exposed Ferrari’s dishonest track testing policies and other forms of company and media corruption. Prior to test driving a new Ferrari, an automotive journalist must contact the company and reveal which test track they will be taking it to. Afterwards, Ferrari will send the test team to the specified track and “tune” the car for maximum performance.

In other words, Ferrari is cheating. When automotive journalists test drive a new Ferrari, they are driving a “tuned” version of the car, while other manufacturers supply journalists with the actual car available to the public. It’s an unfair advantage for Ferrari to bump up the horsepower on their test track models. If no other automakers are doing it, why is Ferrari allowed to get away with it?

If automotive magazines continue to pardon Ferrari’s manipulation, readers will start why their Ferrari doesn’t have the same 0-60 time or the same quarter-mile time as the publications’ latest reviews. By condoning this behavior, the journalists are no better than Ferrari in my opinion. They are writing glorious reviews about a tuned Ferrari that is entirely different than the consumer model at the nearest dealership.

I applaud Chris Harris for his ballsy article. He wasn’t about to sit back and let thousands of potential Ferrari owners buy a car that wouldn’t live up to the impressive reviews. Even if Ferrari will no longer allow him to drive any of its cars again, at least he can sleep at night knowing he did the right thing.

Vietnam arrests journalist for government criticism

Security agents in Vietnam arrested journalist Le Anh Hung Jan. 24 in Hung Yen due to critical blogs posted about the Vietnamese government.

The Committee to Protect Journalists is protesting the arrest and calling for the release of Hung and other journalists detained in Vietnam on suspicious charges.

Prior to his arrest, Hung had been harassed and interrogated by Vietnamese police for his critical blog posts about the corruption and abuse of power within the Communist Party. He was initially told there was an issue with his temporary residence papers, but it quickly became clear that it was nothing but a government attempt to cover up the arrest. He is currently being detained at a mental health institution in Hanoi, supposedly due to a request by his “mother.” Hung is not allowed to see any visitors.

The emergence of social media and blogging has led to an outbreak of citizen journalism across the world. These tools have enabled anybody with a computer to voice their opinion and report on issues that many journalists are not informed about or do not have access to. In the U.S., Hung would have been free to voice his opinion about government corruption due to protections clauses guaranteed in the First Amendment.

One of the primary responsibilities of journalists is to act as a government watchdog and make sure government officials do not abuse their power. This is exactly what Hung was trying to do, but was detained in a mental institution as a result.

We’re lucky to live in a democratic society that endorses the freedom of speech and freedom of the press. I can’t even imagine trying to work under a Communist regime that restricts these freedoms through press censorship. Essentially, a journalist would publish what the government tells him to, or not publish at all. Next time I’m discouraged and complaining about how hard it is to report on a story, I’ll remember Hung’s arrest and appreciate the journalistic freedoms we have here in America.