By Cesar Zafra
This year, Miami-Dade County’s bi-annual Social Media Forum concerned the significance of digital citizenship in the evolving modern world of journalism. Arranged downtown at the School Board Administration Building, MDCPS invited educators and students to discuss the prevalence and effects of digital media in journalism. Over 160 students from a variety of high schools in the district, including Miami Lakes Educational Center (MLEC), attended.
Neyda Borges, the journalism advisor and English Department Chair at MLEC, was selected to participate as one of the featured panelists for the forum. Borges had the honor of being the first ever educator selected to be on the panel.
Other panelists were: WSVN news anchor and reporter Omar Lewis; Hunter Franqui, WPLG Local 10 Creative Services Producer; Melissa Adan, NBC 6 South Florida reporter; Alexa R. Carlin, founder of Women Empower Expo.
Moderated by Daisy Gonzalez-Diego, Chief Communications Officer at MDPCS, the discussion began with short examples of how journalism is an ever-changing work field and how the methods in which information is displayed are expanding.
Attendees were encouraged to interact digitally by reporting and expressing opinions on Twitter with the hashtag #MDCPSConnects.
Gonzalez-Diego recognized a Twitter Chat named #SheDecides, hosted by MLEC’s school newspaper, The Harbinger, that delved into the prominence of gender issues in this presidential election. The chat was used as an example of how students can express their concerns respectfully while driving a discussion forward.
An emphasis was placed on maintaining the ethics in journalism despite the fast-paced nature of news reporting. Although there is competition over which news source reports information the quickest, the panel noted that respect and accurate facts take higher priority over speed.
“If you don’t have both sides of a story then you don’t have a story,” said Borges on the credibility of reporting events on social media.
Later, Alberto Carvalho, Superintendent of MDCPS, made a guest appearance and spoke to the crowd on the weight of morality in the field of journalism.
“Journalism and democracy are two sides of the same coin,” Carvalho went on to explain the endeavor of a journalist. “Journalists are the watchdogs of a democratic, civil society.”
Panelists also acknowledged the importance of being conscious of what one posts online as social media platforms are used as a resource for an online portfolio. While millennials are ahead of past generations in regards to technological aspects, panelists agreed that online content is a reflection of users.
Students had the opportunity to ask the panelists questions of their own choosing. A recurring theme in the questions was how to distinguish the line dividing sensationalism and news reporting in social media.
Lewis answered that having a moral compass is enough to guide a journalist into knowing certain boundaries when it comes to storytelling.
The forum came to a close on a positive note for millennials: panelists were eager to see what the future holds for the field of journalism and mass communications.