I visited Atlanta earlier this year and took the opportunity to do a tour of the CNN studio, because why the hell not. As part of the tour, our group walked along an elevated gantry where we could see the working newsroom below. It's an impressive space with enough workstations for maybe a couple of hundreds of journalists at a time. Although it wasn't particularly busy that day (slow news day maybe), there was still a buzz about the place, a sense of just how frenetic it must get when shit really goes down.
On seeing the floor, an older lady asked the tour guide a question: 'So how do they actually find stories?'
The guide kind of waffled something about how stories are selected for inclusion on air, but it clearly didn't satisfy her.
'But how do they actually find a story in the first place?' she asked her husband as the tour guide moved us along to the next gawking opportunity.
'I don't know,' he replied. 'They must use Twitter and Facebook.'
I'm not a journalist (despite more than once being introduced in public as one), but I have a professional interest in how journalism and news works. Of course social media has become an essential tool for journalists and has had a profound influence not just on how we get our news, but what the content of that news is (sometimes to its detriment). But it is still one tool of many in getting to the truth of a story.
So the conversation I overheard at CNN has stayed with me.
And I've continued to be struck by the thought that this older couple couldn't conceive of 'journalism' without social media.
I wonder if the way we consume news is beginning to affect our perception of how it's made, that – thanks to apps like Twitter, Facebook, Periscope and the like – we assume that the devices used for consuming content are the same as the devices made for creating it.
I don't know what this might mean, but as I think and plan and imagine where we're going with 'the book', it's a thought that refuses to go away.
In any case, the next time someone asks:
'Where do you get your ideas?'
I think I'll respond:
'Twitter and Facebook.'