The Impact of Twitter on Journalism

I saw this video last week, and instantly fell in love with it. It really made the rounds on the Internet this past weekend, so apologies if you’ve already seen it.

If you haven’t seen it, this is an amazing video by Off Book, a web series from PBS that explores cutting edge art, internet culture, and the people that create it. It’s a collection of short interviews with Web journalists who have found Twitter to be a useful tool in the job. The b-roll is a ton of journalistically-important tweets intended to demonstrate just how critical monitoring Twitter is to journalists.

Besides it being a really well put together video, it demonstrates a few things that I’ve felt were important for a while. First, we, as communicators, need to be aware of the tools that the press and the public are using.

Second, and more importantly I think, is the role that the press are starting to assume in this world. When information was at a premium and difficult to find, reporters held the role of information conduits. The public got information about the world and breaking news from the press. The press, thankfully, thought it important to ensure that they told the truth and told it objectively.

Today though, there is a glut of information out there, the public breaks news before the press even gets it’s pants on, and some news outlets have begun to act as balance points against other outlets (see MSNBC and Fox News). In that world, reporters have struggled to find their role. Should they strive to break news? Struggle to act as the sole distributor of news?

I think, because of their professionalism and specialized training, reporters should strive to be right. To be the distributors of confirmed information. To be the ones that separate the wheat from the chaff, investigate through the lies and misdirection, be the final word on situations. To cull through the firehose of Twitter, identify sources and confirm the story. That’s the impact of Twitter on journalism.

2 thoughts on “The Impact of Twitter on Journalism

  1. Good piece Jim. As a former reporter, now involved in crisis comms and emergency management, I see social media changing everything we do. Multiplying our audiences. Twitter, just to speak of that social network, is like a global (well, almost) organic, news agency,where contributors are at once consumers and editors … it’s a scary thought for many so-called “professional” news organizations, that are not very much dependent on social news and must also rely on these channels to make their own proprietary content relevant …Welcome to the age of social convergence!

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