Social media journalism
|Zan Azlee is a documentary filmmaker, journalist, writer, New Media practitioner and lecturer. He runs Fat Bidin Media www.fatbidin.com|
JUNE 22 — Recently, on the invitation of the British Council and FINAS, I attended the Sheffield Documentary Film Festival in the United Kingdom.
While there, I took every opportunity to engage with other documentary film-makers and journalists who were in attendance.
Among those I was looking forward to meeting was Tim Pool, the journalist who garnered fame after live-streaming the Occupy Wall Street protests last September.
He live-streamed the raid on the Zuccoti Park protest for 21 hours non-stop, which immediately turned him into one of the most well-known journalists of the moment.
His coverage was picked up by several news organisations and he was even nominated as one of the 100 most influential people by Time magazine.
He was scheduled to hold a talk in Sheffield on his experience covering the OWS movement as a social media journalist.
The talk was informative and also exciting as he screened several clips from his “live” coverage of the protests in New York. I sat down with him after the crowd left.
Pool told me he had no intention of being a journalist. Just a few days before the OWS protests started, he was an amateur skateboarder wreaking havoc on the streets.
But after he heard and read about the movement, he was moved enough by what he heard that he decided to document the movement.
He didn’t have any professional equipment except for his smart phone and a mobile Internet connection, but that was all he needed.
“I didn’t want the hassle of recording, editing and uploading my footage. So I decided to just use Ustream to webcast what I shot live,” said Pool.
Pretty simple, and it plays right into the term citizen journalist. But he actually prefers the term social media journalist.
In fact, he even interacts with his audience as they are able to send him typed comments or questions which he can see, and react on, in real time on his screen.
After his coverage of OWS, many a news organisation came knocking at Pool’s door offering lucrative jobs but he turned them all down.
He feels that being independent is the key to being a good journalist and that he needs no validation to know that he is doing what he is supposed to.
“I have not been tempted to join the dark side,” laughs Pool. “I also refuse to get my press credentials since I don’t need any authority to approve my work.”
However, the only “authority” that he would consider as significant is the general public as they realise what is the truth and what are lies.
He argues that social media journalism (reporting on Twitter, Facebook, Ustream, etc) will prevail over other forms of traditional media as it is transparent.
“There’s really no reason for people to continue watching TV if they can see an individual reporting honestly and building his or her own credibility online,” he adds.
Part of being “independent” as Pool puts it, is to not be funded by a company or advertisers. At the moment, he is almost entirely funded by donations from the public.
However, he is honest and frank enough to admit that the donation model barely keeps him afloat, although he is not making a loss either.
From my observation, Pool doesn’t see having a lucrative business model as a bad thing. He just sees it as losing one’s independence, hence objectivity.
Being young (he is 26) and idealistic, he has chosen to continue, for the sake of independent and truthful journalism, which is something the world could definitely use more of.
* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.