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Facebook and Twitter Are Reshaping Journalism As We Know It

The rise of Facebook and Twitter herald changes for journalism, and pose serious challenges to about journalistic credibility and trust.

Editor's Note: This article combines two interviews by Rory O' Connor with the CEO of Facebook and the Co-Founder of Twitter.

I spent much of last fall at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government as a Fellow at the  Shorenstein Center for the Press, Politics and Public Policy. While there, I researched issues related to journalistic trust and credibility -- and in particular what role emerging social media might play in addressing those concerns. One of the most prominent online social networks, of course, is the seemingly ubiquitous Facebook. Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg, who created the platform as a Harvard student along with roommates Dustin Moskovitz and Chris Hughes, was unavailable for comment, as was Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg. But Randi Zuckerberg, who is part of the network's creative marketing organization "where she regularly interacts with media organizations to discuss ways they can partner with Facebook," did agree to a recent email interview -- the first in a series of posts on the topic of trust and journalism.

Rory O'Connor : With slumping public approval, journalism is facing a crisis of trust. We're looking at how people can find and share credible news and information in hopes of regaining this trust. Do you think Facebook plays a role in this process at all? If so, how?

Randi Zuckerberg: The concept of "the trusted referral" is integral to the success of content sharing on Facebook. We've found that it is tremendously more powerful to get a piece of content -- an article, a news clip, a video, etc -- from a friend, and it makes you much more likely to watch, read, and engage with the content.

People will always want to consume content from experts and they will always look to trusted news sources and journalists for important news and current events, but the market has become so oversaturated that it is now just as important to rely on one's friends to help filter the news. When you get a news clip from a friend, they are putting their own personal brand on the line, saying "I recommend THIS piece of content to you out of all the content that is out there," -- just as they would recommend a restaurant, or a movie.

We are beginning to see journalists and news/broadcast companies creating a significant presence on Facebook to engage with Facebook users and help facilitate this notion of the trusted referral to assist with the viral spread of content. When journalists can really engage with this audience and enlist Facebook users to market and share their content, that is such a powerful way to share credible news and information and tap into the implicit trust that people have with their friends.

ROC: The conventional wisdom in academia is that social networks do the opposite, they serve as polarizing echo chambers where users reinforce their own views rather than being persuaded to listen and perhaps agree with others. Why or why not does Facebook fit this mold?

RZ: This is a great question. I think this greatly depends on where you look within a social website. If you are looking at a user profile, you'd probably be correct in that people use that real estate on the site to build their own personal brand. They post photos of themselves, write about their view points, and tell their friends what they are doing and what they are thinking. So yes, if you look at only the profile, you might believe that social media is just a place for a one-sided posting of information about oneself.

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