How News Channels are Using Social Media

As technology is changing the pace of journalism, news channels are working hard to keep up with it. Using social media has become part and parcel of working with news channels today. Here is a look at how some news channels are using social media…

photo credit: m0gky

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From a very cautious about social media in 2009 to Peter Horrocks (When he took over as the new director of BBC Global News) saying that technology was changing journalism, adding that it was important for the BBC to leave a programme-based mindset behind and adapt to new technologies, things at BBC have changed considerably.

In the 160 pages of the BBC’s 2009 editorial guidelines, social media were mentioned only once: the editors were warned to “consider the impact of our re-use” of social media content. However, it has now become important for editorial staff to make better use of social media and become more collaborative in producing stories.

From the use of Twitter and RSS readers as essential tools by news editors to aggregating and curating content with attribution as part of a BBC journalist’s assignment; BBC’s journalists have to integrate and listen to feedback for a better understanding of how the audience is relating to the BBC brand.

The creation of the post of social media editor at BBC shows just how serious the channel is about the use of social media.


For CNN the deep integration of social media marked an important step in improving their reporting and get closer to their sources – this became very obvious with their coverage of the Haiti earthquake.

In April 2013 CNN Worldwide emerged as the winner for Best Use of Social Media for News at the 5th Annual Shorty Awards in New York City. CNN’s submission Election 2012: CNN Won the Social Media Battle edging out other entries from FOX News, NBC News Digital, Univision, The Guardian and other channels. This was the second year in a row that CNN has been awarded the Best Use of Social Media for News.


As the editor of the NetNet blog and the journalist who covers Wall Street and finance at CNBC, John Carney relies on social media to find out the latest on the street; for more on who’s out, who’s in who’s making what deals and who’s making news before they’re making news. He also uses Twitter, Instagram, google Plus, Vine, Facebook as vital tools to interact and talk to people, know what others are talking about.

Carney take pictures of food and shares them on instagram, to get to know people by letting them peek in to what is going on in his life. He uses Facebook link to articles and interact with readers. He Is online all the time (except when sleeping). That’s an example of how journalists at CNBC are using social media.

Al Jazeera

It’s been five years since a social media revolution swept Al Jazeera. The transition however did not come very easily. When Riyaad Minty, who now heads social media at Al Jazeera, joined the news organisation seven years ago, he was part of a team looking at emerging mobile technologies. With the evolution of social media his role too underwent a change.

However not everyone within the organisation was ready to embrace new platforms as places for newsgathering and storytelling. The turning point came in early 2009 when people walked into the newsroom and saw that the New York Times had published an article on how Al Jazeera was crowdsourcing the war in Gaza. It was when people saw this article with a picture of the team on one of the main pages talking about how innovative we were that they started to realise that may be there is something more to what could be done with social media.

More resources then followed and now there is a social media team of nine people, plus each newsroom has journalists trained in social, and TV programmes have digital producers.

Some landmarks in Al Jazeera’s use of social media are: the war in Gaza when they set up @AJGaza Twitter account becoming one of the first, if not the first, news organisation in the world to live tweet a war minute-by-minute. Al Jazeera also worked with Ushahidi, the open-source crisis mapping platform, to create a map of reports, which updated in near real-time. @AJGaza was renamed to @AJELive once they saw the potential in live tweeting events. “So instead of keeping on one story only, the account changed to become their “real-time” account for news.

They also used social media to cover the Iranian elections in 2009 and the Arab spring and Elections in Iraq in 2010 when Al Jazeera partnered with YouTube to gather video stories.

“At that time there wasn’t a massive audience,” Minty said. “We started an account with zero followers and we built it up to around 17,000 which back in 2008 was a sizeable audience.”

The days of “social” journalism have arrived!