Let's talk TikTok: How and why we're bringing you news like never before

Biden TikTok
Posted at 5:17 PM, Jan 26, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-27 07:13:35-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — This week we're partnering with the nonpartisan News Literacy Project for News Literacy Week, which helps shine a light on discerning fact from fiction in the media.

We've talked about how misinformation can easily spread on platforms like TikTok and Instagram, but we at NewsChannel5 understand that it hasn't stopped anyone from turning to these platforms for news.

The question then becomes, can you translate the same credible content found on TV to these platforms without sacrificing the integrity of the work?

Investigative reporter Ben Hall sat down with our Levi Ismail who ventured into the world of TikTok storytelling through his account called Nashville News. The two spoke about why it's important for more journalists to consider using vertical storytelling to engage with the broader audience already using these platforms.

Hall: "So you've been a traditional journalist for a lot of years. You've recently ventured into social media as well as traditional journalism. You've taken on the addition of social media. How are the two different?"

Ismail: "With social media. It's right in the name. Social. So the expectation is that you're going to talk to people about what you put out there. What your story is. How you went about actually putting together the story. Where you found your interviews. I found that people expect that as opposed to where if you're watching a news story that we put on the air that happens to live online. People don't expect there to be a dialogue."

Hall: "With news literacy, we're talking about misinformation and how much misinformation is out there. Especially on social media. So how do you vet the product you put out?"

Ismail: "It's no different than what we do on air. Our responsibility is to make sure we're a credible journalist at the end of the day, so working with the I-team obviously, the expectations are much higher. The product has to be vetted through a number of different channels and I think that's something that's missing from social media that doesn't have to be."

Hall: "Are you concerned about the lack of vetting that takes place on some of the other stuff that's on social media that it brings down material that you might put out there?

Ismail: "You can only control, what you can control. Right? So my responsibility is to handle the stories I put out there and it goes beyond stuff that I would cover. There's stories that you and I have worked on together. That's your story. I have to do justice for your story and make sure I'm accurate. So there's an extra level of responsibility there not only to your story, but to the viewers."

Hall: "We also hear that people are interested in reinforcing beliefs they may already have. Sometimes a vetted news story that presents both sides makes that group of people uncomfortable. So what do you do about that when it comes to social media?"

Ismail: "Let's be honest, a lot of people don't have the time to go digging into what you have to say to find out the truth. So if you can, give people more options for credible journalists. If we can find ways to get people just like yourself, just like myself who are doing this on a 9-5 basis and find a way to apply their skills into social media in vertical storytelling, I think that is going to be the future of our industry. The future of what keeps our industry going."

Hall: "There are some people who are concerned that social media and these algorithms. What that creates is a dangerous, harmful, could be the downfall of journalism and our democracy."

Ismail: "I say it's the exact opposite. Democracy is built on individualism working together for the greater good. What you're finding is that the algorithm is giving people the option to be able to curate what they want, but at the same time you get that insight from someplace you may not have wanted to search out, but it's giving you a perspective than you never knew."

Hall: "It sounds to me like you're saying social media is like the wild west. What needs to happen is more responsible journalists need to move into the wild west. More responsible journalists need to move into social media and people need to seek those people out and that will help save social media, I guess?"

Ismail: "I'm not saying we're going to be the ones to save social media. I'm saying we're going to be the ones to save our industry. For some reason we've left the door open for so many folks to come out and say that they're journalists and gain credibility over their opinions. So why not go out there and show them what it's like? Show them how to do the job. Be there when people ultimately say, I need a credible source, but I don't see anyone around to offer that for me. We can't stick with the same model. We have to find a way to get our brand of journalism that people have trusted for years. We have to find a way to get in front of the folks who may not otherwise know how to reach us."

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