Tweeter or twit: Has Twitter been good for journalism?

It is no secret that on Twitter, ordinary people can create and share their own media content. What we may not always consider is how this is changing the field of journalism (Pavlik 2013, p182). Today, the way that reporters engage with the public, how they approach the breaking news cycle, and how they verify sources is no longer clear cut by any means.

In days gone by, ‘gatekeepers’ like journalists, editors and producers decided what constituted as news (Posetti 2009, p1). Sites like Twitter don’t have this barrier between consumers and producers – something that journalists are still grappling with (Domingo et al 2008, p327). Some have adjusted to the change, like Liz Heron, social media editor for the New York Times. The very existence of her position as ‘social media editor’ is telling, as her duties include identifying trends on Twitter, and then assigning journalists to make live tweets on the stories. NYT‘s coverage of the Arab Spring even used crowdsourcing, using Skype interviews with some of the protesters who were tweeting from the Middle East. This innovative way of approaching Twitter could see the journalism business model move through this awkward growing faze (Pavlik 2013, p191).

Yet, we should still be cautious Twitter journalism. Because the Internet is fast-paced and uber-connected, there is now a ‘24/7 news cycle, which tempts reporters to rely on tweets from citizens for stories. As Hermida says, “the choice between being fast and being right… has acquired greater import at a time when the audience can itself disseminate the news…” (2013, p330). Indeed, after the 2010 Haiti earthquake, a study conducted by Bruno found that only the BBC consistently verified sources from social media (Giannakoulopoulos 2012, p291).

This raises questions for everyone who relies on the media to tell them what’s happening around them: Should the rules change for news that we read on Twitter? And if so, what does this mean for the future of journalism, and the accuracy of news? Only time can tell.

 

References:

Domingo, D. Quandt, T. Heinonen, A. Paulussen, S. Singer, J. & Vujnovic, M. 2008, “Participatory journalism practices in the media and beyond”, Journalism Practice, vol. 2 no. 3, pp326 – 342.

Giannakoulopoulos, A. Varlamis, I. Kouloglou, S 2012, “Technology and Journalism: Conflict and Convergence at the Production Level”, The Handbook of Global Online Journalism (ed. Siapera, E & Veglis, A), Wiley-Blackwell, West Sussex, pp290-390.

Hermida, A. 2013, “#Journalism: Reconfiguring journalism research about Twitter, one tweet at a time”, Digital Journalism, vol. 2 no. 3, pp1-20.

Pavlik, J. 2013, “Innovation And The Future Of Journalism”, Digital Journalism, vol. 1 no. 2, pp. 181 – 193.

Posetti, J. 2009, ‘Rules of Engagement for Journalists on Twitter’, MediaShift, June, viewed 28th May, http://www.upstart.net.au/2010/06/01/100-articles-julie-posetti-on-twitter/

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