Bingqing Mao

Check Social Media, Write The News

Weibo and Vista widgets. Photo courtesy of Google

 

by Bingqing Mao

Can you imagine that journalists never come out from hiding, but write news reports dependent on computers and smartphones? Do you believe there are a few people who just sit in the room, search information online, gather comments from various people and then make them into a report?

It is more and more common that news media follows social media and then develops stories about is trending. More people are choosing to sit in front of the computers for their whole day while gathering information and checking social media every few minutes in order to get the perfect news story. The Internet provides a new way for journalists to find exciting news topics and possible sources. Social media can even help them figure out who their target audiences are.

This is something we have seen in a lot of digital articles. These hot topics have already had a lot of attention and people who are engaging in this talk are also your readers.

Recently in China, a graduate student committed suicide. At first, it didn’t gather much attention and the school even wanted to hide this news. However, the situation changed when the victim’s classmate, who also studied under the same professor, wrote a post on Zhihu, a question-and-answer Chinese website, saying the reason the student committed suicide was likely because his professor treated him unfairly and he could not graduate on time, and he and his classmates also suffered from these improper treatments. Then, more and more students wrote their experiences under the same post, revealing the professor they shared have given them problems. The next day, this post was spreading rapidly on Weibo (China’s Twitter), WeChat, and other social media platforms.

When the post hit on Zhihu, a journalist from The Paper, a Chinese news site, said she was interested in this news and want to write a story about this student. Quickly, I found a short news article about this issue, but all the information was from Zhihu and Weibo. All the journalist did was just collect comments and reorganized it.

Another news magazine, Vista also published a story about this event. The author was Vista’s first editor. He said that he wrote this story because he received a message from Weibo, suggesting Vista cover this accident. His report got more than 50,000 page views.

The following day, more and more people knew about this accident through social media and asked the college to tell the truth, also, news media’s involvement also gives college great pressure. The college said they were investigating this issue now. The Paper published another report to follow up this accident and got more than 20,000 clicks within a day.

The story about the graduate student’s suicide reveals a truth that people have their thoughts about what kind of news they want to read. It also proved to them that they are allowed to tell to the news media where a good story is hidden.

As much as this way of developing stories proves itself to work, I cannot imagine what will happen if everyone sat in front of a desk all day and depended on checking the social media to write news stories.

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