Twitter still a great tool for journalists, as long as accuracy is checked

21 Mar

Social media have given amplifiers to the voices of the world more than any tool that’s come before. Twitter is the epitome of that effect: A constant stream of short bursts of information and anecdotes flows from Twitter into the Web’s collective consciousness, allowing anyone at anytime to access the thoughts and ideas of people across the world. Journalists have several choices when using Twitter, and almost all of them seem like good ideas (and many, in fact, are) at the outset. It may be the case, however, that Twitter creates extra work for journalists rather than simplifying their jobs.

Twitter is one of the best ways journalists can get feedback and story ideas from sources and readers in real time. Using Twitter for crowdsourcing is popular among many media outlets; almost all major news sources ask their audiences to supply information when breaking news happens. The question is, however, how can news media trust the information they gather from the masses? How do they verify claims made by so-called men-on-the-street when citizen sources are the only sources for news? Not all of them do, it seems, as has been verified by numerous high-profile screw-ups by major news organizations, such as CBSSports.com’s Paterno mishap

The fact is, Twitter is a newswire for journalists and readers alike. We rely a lot on our peers — more so than on major news outlets, in some ways — to keep us abreast of what’s happening in our communities. The “real person” feel of Twitter, meaning it’s comprised mostly of people sharing their thoughts and feelings in addition to information, is a big draw for many people because it plays up the social aspect of sharing information, much like co-workers meeting up at the water cooler  for a midday debriefing. 

Some argue that the more people who use Twitter, the better: There will be a higher chance to access accurate information when it can be confirmed by multiple sources. Confirming beyond that still seems to be an issue; it seems Twitter is most effective in gleaning information about breaking news in its early stages. For journalists, one of the most powerful ways Twitter can be used is to gauge readers’ reaction to events and stories. To get a quick comment from a source, journalists need only tweet a question, assign it an appropriate hashtag and let the “Twittosphere” work its magic. Journalists can also assign Twitters they follow to different lists, dividing them by political affiliation or type of organization, perhaps, in order to streamline newsfeeds for easy access to an overview of opinions. 

Twitter’s usefulness and potential in journalism seems to have grown exponentially in only the last couple years, and it doesn’t seem to be showing signs of weakness. If anything, microblogging seems to be growing in popularity, and the general consensus among savvy journalists is if you’re not on Twitter, you’ve already missed the boat. How journalists and their employers will continue to adjust to its capabilities and penchant for speed over accuracy remains to be seen.

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2 Responses to “Twitter still a great tool for journalists, as long as accuracy is checked”

  1. Ronald R. Rodgers March 21, 2012 at 7:42 pm #

    Good – but where is link to your own Twitter story?

  2. Ronald R. Rodgers March 21, 2012 at 7:44 pm #

    OK, I found story – I was looking for link at bottom of this post.

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