Woody Lewis at Mashable writes that on-line social media have replaced the traditional newspaper/magazine media as sources of fast breaking on-the-ground news.
To grasp the power of social media think of the citizens who caught the beating of Rodney King by the LAPD 30 years ago. They could have turned off their cameras and called 911 or the LA Times but did not. Todays citizen advocacy and investigative blogs play a similar role. Lewis explains:
The Web is now the sole distribution channel for newspapers that can no longer afford to publish hardcopy, and those that don’t follow the best practices of social media may see their brands marginalized in cyberspace as well. Social journalism, an extension of those practices, is now an essential component of any news organization’s strategy.
Citizen journalists post photos of fast-breaking events, and cover stories from a different angle than legacy news organizations, but it’s the premeditated watchdog or advocacy role that defines a social journalist. Another factor is the network effect: people using social media to communicate and collaboratively produce content. Editors are still important, but the pieces are shaped by crowd dynamics and the velocity of information.
Lewis' post runs through the past-present-future of social media and is worth a close read. He sees advocacy blogs with an investigative bent as playing a major role going forward.
Progressive educators frequently complain about the educational coverage in news and the retrograde policies pushed by even progressive politicians. On-line educational journalism by teachers and students, documenting school conditions and amplfying the voices of concerned teachers and students, would offer a counterpoint and a pressure for change.