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STUDENT BLOG: WHAT SJI TAUGHT ME ABOUT JOURNALISM & SOCIAL MEDIA

Date Published: August 23, 2019

Author: Malia McClerkin

Before SJI, I, like many currently do, took advantage of the journalism in my life without bothering to see it as anything other than annoying clickbait that pops up on my Twitter feed. It’s like the air we breathe: we use it every day, know it’s important, but we often consume it without even thinking about how essential it is to our daily lives. SJI reminded me to be thankful for our easy access to journalism and to not take it for granted.

My first year at this summer program, I anticipated consecutive days of sitting behind a computer, writing article after article—and I was satisfied with that. Instead, the environment was less like an office space and more like a community-building area that not only allowed us to write to our heart’s content, but also have an opportunity to learn.

Whenever one of our program staff held up the ‘quiet coyote’ sign announcing a slideshow, I would initially roll my eyes. During the introduction of one presentation, we were given a few statistics about how much of the internet uses Twitter, and while I do love collecting a new fun fact, I figured the tidbit would only aid me on trivia night. But a few slides in, we got into the nitty-gritty of how Twitter helps amplify journalism.

Had someone told me this before, I would’ve just said “Well, yeah, I’d assume as much.” However, I was slowly but surely getting increasingly intrigued with each slide, and soon I was invested in the lesson.

We were informed that 59% of journalists use Twitter as a way to spread information rapidly, so people can simply look at a succinct headline and a picture in order to get a general idea and quickly share it with others.

Since 2016, 74% of people on Twitter say that the platform is their source of news, so it is important to reach that 74% by making frequent, easily accessible headlines and links. While obviously I would caution against acknowledging a headline without clicking the link, this is still an effective method of getting news out there.

Osama bin Laden’s death breaking on Twitter before President Obama could announce it exemplifies how fast news travels on social media, something I hadn’t paid much mind to before SJI.

Ordinarily, when I thought of journalism, I pictured a simple newspaper or online article, but SJI confronted me with how critical social media journalism is. The paperboy tossing newspapers on porches was once the practice that took place; today, being able to share a news-breaking headline with thousands just by hitting “retweet” is more miraculous than many give it credit for.

But we weren’t just lectured about this. We actually created our own Teens in Print Twitter accounts, where we practiced tweeting professionally to resemble what journalists do in their day-to-day work. We were also given an assignment called “Snapternoon,” where we would write a succinct script on a current event and film a short video where we read off the script, like a news anchor.

These were especially fun for me to do; not only were we told about how journalism and the media interact, we got to practice it ourselves.

I would find myself scrolling through Twitter for the first time in months, actively looking for eye-catching articles to retweet and occasionally caption for my fellow TiPsters to see. During the “Snapternoon” video project, I worked with a partner to research the new Prime Minister of the UK. Together, we wrote a brief overview of the story and I laughed behind the camera at the seemingly endless bloopers that took place as my partner struggled to read the script.

Now instead of just reading the article headlines I see on social media, I actually click on them! Crazy, I know.SJI could have just been a classroom full of students writing articles all day, but being able to learn and interact with how journalism has adapted online has made the experience all the more fun and informative!