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The ‘thin legitimacy’ of social media as a news source

Due to the proliferation of social media, getting people to read serious journalism is harder than ever, says New York University professor Jay Rosen. Anyone with a smartphone can produce content, and Facebook doesn’t have an editor in chief -- so it’s up to consumers to be selective about their news sources. This is Rosen’s Brief But Spectacular take on journalism in today's digital world.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Now to another in our Brief But Spectacular series, where we ask interesting people to share their passions.

    Tonight, we hear from news media critic and New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen. He runs the Web site PressThink.org, and he offers his views on the state of journalism in the age of Facebook.

    JAY ROSEN, Professor of Journalism, New York University: Twenty-five years ago, we would have been in a studio somewhere with 13 people around. We're recording this with a single cameraman and his mom, who's holding the microphone.

    Here, we have got our journalist in another city asking questions remotely. It's becoming easier to make media, just at the same time that the network of news is expanding to include everyone with a cell phone all over the world.

    Well, what I think we really need is a press that can sometimes say to us, hey, you may not think this is interesting, but it's really important. Journalists have to give us that kind of message sometimes.

    Some people say the problem is that people are always listening to voices that they already agree with on social media. One of the things journalists are really struggling with about Facebook is that it has, in a way, replaced their relationship with users of the news.

    Instead of going to their favorite news site, just find new stories in their Facebook news feed. That has given Facebook a huge role in the news system. We can't really ask Facebook the kind of questions we would ask an editor in chief, because it doesn't have one.

    When you sign up for a Facebook account, you have to agree to this long list that most people don't read. That's thin legitimacy. Thick legitimacy is when you really understand the deal.

    I think, at some point, they may realize that thick legitimacy is what they need to keep operating, because people trust Facebook. They advertise their life on this platform. And, so, trust is actually a huge part of the Facebook business. But they don't think, in my opinion, hard enough about how to maintain that trust.

    I think it's really important for people to understand that we're not going to have serious journalism unless you choose it. Choosing serious journalism is related to an even more serious choice we have, which is choosing to continue to be a democracy. Democracy is not a spectator sport. It's a participant thing.

    My name is Jay Rosen, and this is my Brief But Spectacular take on journalism.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And you can watch additional Brief But Spectacular episodes on our Web site, PBS.org/NewsHour/Brief.

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