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Social networking is shaky at best

An expected 250-plus layoffs, the sale of a media company and three years of financial losses — if you followed the newspaper industry like I do, you might expect the national news that broke Tuesday to be about one of the larger newspaper companies in the country.

But it’s not.

This time the faltering giant is the online social media company that helped start the trend that has changed our culture.

MySpace is for sale, and though there are interested buyers, the company’s future doesn’t sound too hot.

MySpace was beat out by Facebook years ago in the contest to waste America’s time and limit actual social interactions.

Since then, many media industry watchers have insisted that Facebook, and other social media outlets, would, one day, replace newspapers.

I can’t predict the future, but I do believe that’s hogwash.

In fact, a growing number of so-called experts are now pointing to the demise of Facebook, less than a decade after it started.

I’ll kindly point out here that this newspaper you are now reading — in print or online — has been around 146 years.

Tuesday, Google debuted a new social networking medium — Google+ — that aims to improve upon Facebook’s flaws.

Who knows, in a few years — or even months — we might all be wasting our time there.

But when you all want real news about your community, I’m confident you’ll still turn to us.

That fact became apparent Friday afternoon when mass chaos broke out at United Mississippi Bank on U.S. 61 South.

I was out of town at the annual Mississippi Press Association conference, but I received word of the robbery and shootings minutes before any Facebook posts on the matter started appearing among my Facebook friends or The Natchez Democrat’s Facebook fans.

Questions did begin appearing on the social networking site quickly, but getting the facts right was more difficult.

Some posters correctly believed the robbery was at the bank, others believed it was at Kentucky Fried Chicken.

The debate raged on for approximately 15 minutes, until our reporter confirmed the details with Sheriff Chuck Mayfield and our story went online.

Then, the Facebook posts shifted to simple links to our story.

Social media rarely provides accurate, local news, you see. And though I think our newspaper does a good job, there’s really nothing special about us.

Hundreds of community newspapers across the country are just as vital to their readers as we like to think we are to you all. We think face time matters more than Facebook, and we don’t intend to let a Twitter feed replace a nice sit-down chat.

So as MySpace likely prepares to reduce its staff from 500 to less than 250, community newspapers across the country will be around to report the story.

But more important, we’ll be here to deliver the Dixie Youth All-Star scores, to update local crimes, to publish births, engagements and deaths, to challenge local politicians and to tell the story of you.

Julie Cooper is the managing editor of The Natchez Democrat. She can be reached at 601-445-3551 or julie.cooper@natchezdemocrat.com.