Rock Island, IL
For decades, the news has been something that people can count on to be in the media, whether it was in newspapers, radio, television, or, more recently, the internet. I had never really thought about how journalists get their information for the news until a recent visit to WQAD.
For a while, I can imagine that journalists have had to go to great lengths to find exactly what they need for a good story. Research using books, interviews, and undercover investigation were, and still are, great resources for finding good news. But now that the internet has basically taken over the world, journalists have a whole new way of getting information.
Marcel Machill and Markus Beiler did a study on how journalists do their research, and reported that in 1994, 17 percent of American journalists used the internet about once a day for their research. However, in 2000, that percent went up to 81. Now, based on their results, internet takes up almost half of journalists’ time when working on a story.
I recently found out that in my community at WQAD, they use the internet in a completely different way than I ever imagined. When I watch the local news, I sometimes wonder where they get their ideas for stories. The idea for a story that reporter Chris Williams did on oven mitts came from Facebook. A friend had simply posted a status about cleaning oven mitts, which led to a huge story about what exactly is in your oven mitts at home. It does shock me somewhat that a news story blossomed from a Facebook status, but my original thought on this was, “oh, he simply must have seen it while glancing at his newsfeed. It must have been just a wonderful accident.” However, it seems that reporters in our community use Facebook frequently to get ideas for good stories. Williams told my Broadcasting class, “I keep my Facebook up all day.” I find this is a fascinating and creative way to find good stories that other reporters may not have thought of. It keeps them connected to the community in a way that allows them to produce news that we will actually care about. Their connection to the community shows that the journalists in the Quad cities really want to give audiences what they want to know, and what they should know.
Using the internet as a resource can have its disadvantages. Machill and Beiler say that the downside to using the internet as a resource can lead to false information. “The problem is due firstly to the credibility and reliability of sources on the Internet which, as a result of the low barriers to access, can be easily manipulated and are not subject to professional quality criteria.”
Whether they are looking on Google or Facebook, some sources are not reliable. This may make some people question the reliability of the research of the reporters at WQAD, but I believe that with enough follow up research, WQAD is very good at reporting stories that keep the people of the Quad Cities interested and informed.
So next time you have a friend request from someone you don’t know, it may just be a reporter trying to connect with the community. You never know, your Facebook status may be the inspiration for the next breaking news story.