Mobile and Social Media Journalism
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Mobile and Social Media Journalism

A Practical Guide for Multimedia Journalism

Anthony Adornato

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368 pages
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eBook - ePub

Mobile and Social Media Journalism

A Practical Guide for Multimedia Journalism

Anthony Adornato

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About This Book

Now in its second edition, Mobile and Social Media Journalism continues to be an essential resource for learning how journalists and news organizations use mobile and social media to gather news, distribute content, and engage with audiences. Merging theory and practice, the book includes checklists and practical activities in every chapter, enabling readers to immediately build the mobile and social media skills that today's journalists need and which news organizations expect.

The second edition retains a focus on journalism's core values, such as authentication, verification, and credibility, while guiding readers on how to apply them to digital media activities. The book also offers an in-depth discussion of the audience's active role in producing content, how mobile devices and social media have changed the way the audience consumes news, and what these changes mean for journalists. Updated to address the latest trends in multimedia journalism, the second edition includes two new chapters: "Writing mobile-friendly web stories" and "The spread of fake news".

This is a valuable resource for journalism students, as well as media professionals seeking to update their skills.

The book alsofeatures a companion website at, providing online resources for students and lecturers, including video tutorials, industry news, and sample assignments. The book's Twitter account (@MobileJourn) and Facebook page ( share the latest industry trends and offer tips for teaching the topic.

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1 Forces at the gate

An active audience

In this chapter, you will

  • Identify how mobile devices and social media are fundamentally different from past technologies such as television and the printing press.
  • Discover how mobile devices and social media allow two-way conversations between the audience and journalists versus the old one-way model of mass communications.
  • Learn how social media has led to the public’s active role in the news production process and changed how audiences consume information.
  • Understand that while journalists retain discretion on what makes the “news,” an “active” audience plays an influential role.
  • Explore the three areas in which mobile devices and social media are impacting journalists’ work: newsgathering, distribution of news, and audience engagement.
Photo 1.1 Eric Resendiz is a KABC-TV journalist who lives in the Los Angeles community that he’s assigned to cover. Community engagement and storytelling on social media are key parts of his job. “If you want to be a successful journalist, it’s very much about connecting with people no matter the platform,” Resendiz said. “You learn about the heart of a community and build trust this way.” Follow him on Twitter and Instagram: @abc7eric.
As a community journalist for KABC-TV, Eric Resendiz has his finger on the pulse of what’s happening in East Los Angeles. Resendiz lives in and reports about this area of Los Angeles that was traditionally not on the radar of news outlets unless news was breaking there.
“Our hyperlocal approach is about not just parachuting into a community when there’s negative news,” said Resendiz, a former intern and news associate at the station. “I’m building connections with community members in-person and through social media. On social media, I can chat with them about story ideas and share content that engages them.”
Resendiz is part of a new generation of digital storytellers working at ABC-owned stations in the United States. The team of about two dozen community journalists focuses on hyperlocal reporting across social media, web, and television. ABC’s Community Journalists Program embeds reporters in communities where there are important stories that haven’t been told.
Resendiz typically works remotely from home or a neighborhood coffee shop. He’s a mobile journalist juggling many tasks. “You wear a lot of hats as a journalist,” he said. “You have to know how to shoot and edit video stories and write for different platforms. I’m also my own assignment desk, web producer, and creative services department.”
Working solo in one of the biggest television markets in the U.S., he produces multiple versions of each story—for social media, web, and TV. “I tailor my content for the platform,” said Resendiz. “Every social media site has a different audience and language.”
Resendiz’s storytelling on social media—for example, Instagram Stories that incorporate polls and emojis—is a way to reach an increasing number of people who don’t watch television news.
These community journalists are tearing up the handbook of traditional television news. Resendiz said he shoots 90 percent of his video using an iPhone. “If I’m under a tight deadline, the iPhone is the easiest way to get what I need.”
Welcome to journalism today. The tools of the trade are now in the palms of our hands. With a single mobile device, journalists produce and share content across different platforms—social media, mobile, websites, and TV.
But it’s not simply about journalists “pushing out” content on multiple platforms.
Journalists are expected to interact with audiences—meet the public in spaces where they’re now spending an increasing amount of time consuming and producing information. Audiences are actively engaged with news on social media platforms and mobile devices, whether by posting photos from the scene of breaking news, tweeting with reporters about their stories, or sharing a news outlet’s story with their circle of social media followers.
These interactions, fueled by new technologies, are reshaping journalists’ relationships with news consumers and how news is produced.
Flashback: What’s the Internet, anyway?
The year was 1994. NBC News Today show anchors Katie Couric, Bryant Gumbel, and Elizabeth Vargas discuss, with some confusion, this new “thing” called “the Internet.”
Gumbel asks, “What’s Internet anyway?” His co-anchors chime in: It’s “that massive computer network that is becoming really big now.”
The anchors are also puzzled over the @ symbol in an email address displayed on the screen. “I wasn’t prepared to translate that . . . that little mark with the ‘a’ and then the ring around it,” says Gumbel.
“At,” says Vargas.
“See that’s what I said,” responds Gumbel. “Katie said she thought it was ‘about.’”
Years after this entertaining exchange took place, it was posted online and, you guessed it, went viral. The clip shows how in such a short time span the online medium has gone from uncharted territory for journalists to a space where we produce nearly all of our work. Of course, the Internet was the launching point for what came next: the birth of social media.
View the video:

Technology and journalism

Before diving into specific mobile and social media skills, strategies, and tools, it’s critical to understand how journalism reached this crossroads. Reflecting on the past provides an important perspective on where the industry stands now and where it may be headed.
From the printing press to computers, technology has always shaped how journalists perform their craft and where the public turns for news. The printing press, which gave rise to newspapers, allowed for mass distribution of news in the written form. At first, the process of transmitting news from the field to print was slow and cumbersome. By the time news reached people, it was days—sometimes weeks—old. The telegraph sped up the process, allowing reporters to transmit stories so people could learn of news the day it happened.
Radio and television brought more immediacy to journalism, a new way of telling stories. Journalist were now able to bring audiences to the scene of news through the use of audio, video, and live reports.
The Internet opened up an entirely uncharted world for journalism and audiences. In the late 1990s, most news outlets’ websites were simply a single static page. Print reporters were still focused on the newspaper and broadcast reporters on their stories for TV or radio newscasts. As the audience increasingly turned online for information, news outlets’ websites became more robust, and with that came new tasks for journalists.
Journalists’ responsibilities went far beyond stories for print, TV, or radio—producing multimedia web stories with a mix of photos, video, and audio became the norm. You can see that each new technology has affected how and where people get their news as well as how journalists do their jobs.
Fast-forward to the present day. Social media and mobile devices are the latest technologies shaping the field, and they have reached this position in a relatively short amount of time, considering the first iPhone was released in 2007 and Twitter was launched in 2006. Never before in such a short amount of time has a new technology had such a dramatic impact on so many facets of communications.

Before social media: One-way communication

The reason behind this has to do with fundamental differences between today’s technologies and those in use prior to the introduction of social media, such as the printing press and television. In the past, traditional print and broadcast journalism were based on the mass communications model of one-way communication.
The characteristics of traditional mass communications are these:
  • From one entity, person, or group to a large audience
  • One-way communication
  • Passive audience
Producers of information, such as journalists, told the public what they needed to know with little or no interaction with the audience, in a one-way flow of information. It’s the equivalent of someone talking at you, albeit with interesting and important information, but you’re not allowed or able to respond. A single voice speaks to many. That’s not much of a conversation.
There’s a concentration of power in this model. News consumers were considered passive, because previous technologies didn’t foster immediate engagement with content and journalists. People received the news but had little interaction with it. Writing a letter to the editor or calling a newsroom tips line were the extent of the feedback.
This model—what some call the “voice of God”—has been turned upside down with the emergence of mobile devices and social media now that nearly anyone can produce and share content. The audience has shifted from a passive one to an active one.

Social media: Journalism as a conversation

The audience is at the center of social media. They’re in the driver’s seat. Jay Rosen (@jayrosen_nyu), media critic and journalism professor at New York University, describes the current audience as passengers on your ship who have a boat of their own.1 They can connect with each other and with journalists, and they have the means to speak to the world.
Therefore, mobile devices and social media are characterized by
  • Accessibility: A majority of people now has access to these tools.2
  • Active audience: The audience can create and publish content.
  • Interactivity: Messages and feedback happen simultaneously.
These characteristics challenge the traditional notion of mass communications. Because of broad access to mobile devices and social media, creating and publishing content has been opened up to the masses. This is in direct contrast to the closed model of traditional media.
The audience can turn to Twitter to complain about a product. They can snap images of a protest and instantly share them on Instagram. They can use Facebook to generate buzz about an event. The list of things this now-active audience can do is endless.
In addition, interactivity fosters a two-way conversation. When someone tweets at a company or journalist,...

Table of contents

Citation styles for Mobile and Social Media Journalism
APA 6 Citation
Adornato, A. (2021). Mobile and Social Media Journalism (2nd ed.). Taylor and Francis. Retrieved from (Original work published 2021)
Chicago Citation
Adornato, Anthony. (2021) 2021. Mobile and Social Media Journalism. 2nd ed. Taylor and Francis.
Harvard Citation
Adornato, A. (2021) Mobile and Social Media Journalism. 2nd edn. Taylor and Francis. Available at: (Accessed: 15 October 2022).
MLA 7 Citation
Adornato, Anthony. Mobile and Social Media Journalism. 2nd ed. Taylor and Francis, 2021. Web. 15 Oct. 2022.