Brian Stelter, social media guru and reporter for The New York Times, spoke to BYU students and faculty about the future of news coverage and the effect of social media on the government Wednesday.
Social media’s effect on society and friendships is apparent to most BYU students, but how will the trend of social media use affect the news, government and politics?
Stelter said that the Internet has made it possible for anyone to publish. While attending Towson University in Maryland, he started TVnewser.com, a daily digest for news junkies. It’s popularity grabbed the attention of The New York Times. He said that even in the 1990s the Internet allowed interaction between people that wasn’t formerly possible.
“When I was 10 I create my first webpage … about Goosebumps books,” Stelter Said. “I eventually got to know the author R.L. Stein because of it.”
Stelter encouraged the audience to “live-tweet” his presentation throughout. He said that social media websites have been helping him as a reporter.
“These tools have transformed the way I do my job,” Stelter said. “It puts me in touch with my readers, my subscribers, my audience. It gives me ideas for stories. It gives me ideas for sources to those stories. It’s basically a giant antenna that I can point in any direction I want to.”
Stelter explained how local governments are also benefiting from social media. These websites have proven to be helpful in getting urgent news out immediately.
“It was a wake up call for me when I helped cover Hurricane Sandy last year on the East Coast,” Stelter said.
Stelter said that political elections have also been influenced heavily by sites like Instagram and Twitter. Politicians use these websites to better relate and converse with their publics. Greater two-way communication has improved relationships between politicians and their supporters. While there are definite impacts, they are just beginning to be understood.
“When a city councilman likes a comment of yours on Facebook, or when you see that person check into a political rally on Foursquare, you feel a much more stronger connection to that person,” Stelter said.
In an interview prior to his presentation, Stelter explained that there are risks that social media can bring to the media and to government. Those in the minority can be more extreme and vocal in their comments and opinions online about a particular issue.
“There’s a risk in amplifying that kind of noise,” Stelter said. “They can make it sound louder than it is.”