07/26/2012 10:17 am ET Updated Sep 25, 2012

How Real-Time Social Media Is Giving the News Media A Makeover

A brave new mash-up of traditional news and the real-time stream is emerging that puts social media front and center in the news business ecosystem.

From the horror of the Aurora shootings, to the minutiae of Mitt Romney's Bain Capital dealings, to the whereabouts of Michael Jackson's mother, Katherine, the value chain of the news stream has radically changed.

The need for solid 'real' news gathering and reporting has never been stronger. We all know now that anyone can post anything to the Internet - whether it's true or not. In many ways 'curators" are the new editors, and it's their job to distill what's valid and meaningful to their audiences.

Then there's the real-time citizen journalist, who's documenting, commenting, and sharing everything - from the mundane to the spectacular. Documenting our everyday lives is now commonplace and becoming fully integrated into our culture. The social stream is literally jammed with billions of bits of people's lives.

Sometimes the results can be jaw-dropping. The early tweets from excited moviegoers in Aurora, Colorado "It's going to be a great night! #TDKR" quickly turned to horror Reddit user Integ3r as the first posts about the shooting started to appear on Reddit. 18-year-old Morgan Jones began posting updates on a Reddit thread with information he got from the Aurora Police and Fire Live Feed. Read the whole account of how he did it at Buzzfeed.

Integ3r's stream quickly became the reliable 'go-to' account of unfolding events.

That real-time social media is now rocket-fuel for breaking-news is finally sinking in. Yes, anything and everything can be posted to the Internet. But what's real and important fights it's way to the top and has the staying power that lasts.

This new mash-up of traditional news and the real-time stream is not only useful, it may well change the way we document the history of our times. Re-reading the mesmerizing Reddit stream of the Aurora shootings is a case in point....think of the legal, historical, and social importance this stream could have as we continue to piece together just what happened and what it means going forward.

How that helps change society or influence policies remains to be seen. But the power of real-time social media is now at the center of our awareness and will only continue to grow in influence.

Beverly Macy is the CEO of Gravity Summit and the Co-Author of The Power of Real-Time Social Media Marketing. She also teaches Executive Global Marketing and Branding and Social Media Marketing for the UCLA Extension and speaks widely on the topic of real-time social media. Email at