Dear Future, Sincerely, NYU and Columbia Journalism Students


This is the second post in a two-part series about SMW NY. For the first post, click here.

If you read the first post recapping the SMW Press Corps’ coverage of SMW NYC, then you know that the event’s student journalists are keeping the incredible array of content alive via digital format. And we have a quick recap of some of the week’s events, then read on.

The future of journalism

Our young journalists also came away with an even stronger conviction about the power of social media to unite people, transform media as we know it, and fundamentally change society.

“My favorite topic was certainly Upworthy and their discussion of social media and journalism,” said Oghene Oyiborhoro, one of two journalists from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. “They shined a light into the direction journalism may be taking. The heads were blunt about their assessment that journalists would have to conform to new formats or essentially be left out of the social revolution.”

Likewise, learning about journalism’s evolution was the highlight for New York University senior Brittany VanBibber, in particular the opportunity to “write about the virality and methods behind BuzzFeed. It was a chat with Jonah Peretti, the co-founder, whom I had never heard speak prior to SMW.”

Writing about BuzzFeed was especially meaningful because, in Brittany’s words, “People should care about this topic. BuzzFeed has created a successful model for itself in media that has never been done before,” she said. “Their ability to grow their content and make it as shareable as possible really speaks to our current age of social and digital media where everything is centered on sharing.”

Joe Geoghan, also a senior at NYU, is looking forward, too. His favorite topic was Life in 2020

“I specifically appreciated the opinions of socialdeviant CEO Marc Landsberg on where we’re heading as an industry,” Joe told me.

In an email, he continued: “I am personally interested in privacy law, so it was interesting to hear Marc’s perspective on privacy from a marketing standpoint. We often lament the use of products like AdBlocker, but I think it’s important for us to understand why people feel the need to block marketing trackers. It’s a matter of trust, and if consumers don’t trust the companies that are trying to engage with them, the rift in the conversation only widens. That’s why it was beneficial for me to hear Marc discuss the importance of issues like transparency and sincerity in social marketing.”

“A free-flow of ideas for everyone”

And if we needed the reminder, it turns out that open-mindedness is just as important in person as it is during a digital search. Indeed, as Joe said, SMW provided a “free flow of ideas for everyone.”

Brittany heard first-hand about some of the hottest up-and-coming companies in the business. “I found the networking aspect to be very helpful, and I met a lot of intriguing people in the process,” the Muckrack intern said. “I also learned about companies I had never heard of before through various speaking series.”

Joe covered the opening party, enjoyed free food and swag, even getting his headshots taken. “But the real value for me was in the conversations that spontaneously erupted every time I made eye contact with someone,” he recalled. “It was like everyone’s ‘social persona’ took over completely and knocked down all barriers to connection. I learned more just from standing in line next to and chatting with fellow media geeks than I ever thought possible.”

Democratic Renaissance

Our three scholars agree that social media unites people around niche audiences, exposes people to subjects and issues they would not otherwise hear or read about, and keeps people in touch whether they are around the corner or around the globe.

“Social media also has a huge impact on public relations because it presents an opportunity to not only receive up-to date-feedback but also shape the conversation and the way people think about news items and events,” said Oghene, who has an undergraduate degree from Georgetown University.

And wrapping up our interviews on SMW NYC 2014, the trio said that social media’s role in society cannot be understated.

“We are witnessing the earliest days of a democratic renaissance, a means by which thoughts and ideas can be released into the wild and allowed to flourish with the help of anyone and everyone,” said Joe, an associate producer of The Shorty Awards organized by social curation company Muckrack.

“Social media allows us to be limitless in our development as a global culture, and while we must be constantly aware of the dangers of forgetting the physical world, there is no need to deny the value of purely digital connections.”

Sally O’Dowd, a contributor to the SMW blog,  is chief of strategy at OpenCommunications, a PR and digital content firm based in New York. Follow her on Twitter @sallyodowd and the company @OpenCommsOmni. OpenCommunications CEO can be followed @andymorris.

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