Twittersphere: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

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In this fast paced consumer driven society, news reporting has become an ingested, chewed up and then spat out product. Of course I understand that the times are changing but the question I ask here is, in what way are they changing, for better or for worse.

In a way journalism has a future but to what kind of future it has remains unanswered.

“…just as the landscape painters must have realised when the Cubists turned up – that future is definitely going to look a little different because everything is changing. For journalists, change is always a great story. We’re in thrall to it, love reporting it. Lots happening mean lots of news”. (Scott, 2010)

This semester saw the use of twitter as a huge part of our assignment based criteria and I have to admit that I am still not convinced by its construction and its delivery in regards to reporting news and current affairs.

Although I do merit twitters ability to draw in the masses and to make them communicate across a vast range of topics I still remain skeptical.

When it comes to using twitter as tool for media purposes it seems that I’m not alone in my opinion, as the thought that ‘twitter is journalism’, has sparked a long standing debate within in the media hungry community.

Of course like all debates there are two sides of the story. The first side is the advantages that twitter has in news community.

– It is real-time journalism, meaning that when a story breaks twitter is there reporting on it seconds later.
– It can grow an audience by offering different perspectives and views
– It’s a worldwide organization. Anybody from anywhere is the western world can instantly communicate and discuss and swap ideas.
– It offers faster eye witness accounts of a live event.
– It produces links to other news organizations and stories
– It’s raw and unedited and free to use.

The second side is the disadvantages that twitter produces in the news community.

– The credibility and verification issues that arise from retweeting misleading or incorrect facts.
– There is only a 140 character limit where correct grammar and spelling tend to be the first to go. This can also create other problems like misinterpreting the content of the tweet by limiting the expression outlet.
– Higher percentage of rumors that occur during a breaking news story.
– Only really used in the Western world. Thus only the western world is getting the large quantity of news information.
– Can be used as propaganda.
– The lack of analysis and deeper understanding.

With both the advantages and disadvantages of twitter highlighted it is easy to see how the media community is still debating whether or not it’s valuable enough or not for reporting news.

REALTIME JOURNALISM

In this modern day and age having tools that provide and encourage up to the minute news accounts and stories feed our desire for quick consumption of information. Twitter is such a tool. Used to communicate to break and report on breaking news stories twitter has found a comfortable home in the media community.

“However, the act of tweeting can be as journalistic as the act of headline writing. Similarly, the platform can be used for real-time reporting by professional journalists in a manner as kosher as a broadcast news live report”. (Posetti, 2009)

With over 200 million users, it is almost viable to say that the debate has been won and that twitter is the future and the way news reporting and journalistic practices are heading. However, although twitter offers an almost instantaneous source of news information it doesn’t do it flawlessly.

Some may argue that anything invented by humans will always have flaws and that is an inevitable feature in reporting news and journalistic practices in general. But in my opinion the real time news feature that twitter allows only creates more problems. It is however useful in giving people an idea of world events although the factual input and credibility of each source remains questionable.

LIVE TWEETING

This is one area of twitter that I have found quite appealing. It is this feature that allows eye witness accounts of an event, like a natural disaster, media press conference, or a festival of some kind to be uploaded and read around the world in the flashest of flashes.
It is also believed that twitter and live tweeting in particular are more than just journalistic news reporting but instead a live mini blog.

“A live blog is a kind of serial narrative constructed in real time, and Facebook and Twitter often resemble the grammar and style of direct, observed reporting”. (Clark, 2011)

In my experience of using twitter for this assignment I realize that I have not so much as used twitter for live reporting but also have used it as a Blog to state my thoughts and opinions on certain topics that appeal to me.

“While these posts are of the same length and on the same theme, they vary in tone, structure and, on occasion, voice. Though not journalism in the classic sense, they attracted a significant audience and generated lively conversations and debates”. (Clark, 2011)

This feature of twitter perhaps contributes to reporting news and assists its journalistic practice the best. It is also the most understandable way that one would want to use twitter.

VERIFERCATION AND CREDABILITY

This is one of the most important down sides to using twitter as a tool for journalistic practices. It is here that retweeting can cause more damage than good and that the real-time feature of twitter can in fact create rumors and give out incorrect information.

“The first is that online emerging media-including “viral emails, blogs, social networks like Facebook and MySpace, and other new platforms such as the video site YouTube and the micro-blogging Twitter service-are increasingly used by individuals and groups to filter and transmit news and information. The second is that it is now more difficult than ever to separate fact from fiction and “truth” from “spin” in any form of media, legacy or emerging”. (O’Connor, 2008)

In this power hungry world for information, if a story breaks and is tweeted the tweets might get ahead of real event times and create incorrect information that people will accept as fact. This leads to confusion and people to criticize the media and journalist in particular. This is not good for any party concerned.

140 CHARACTER LIMIT

Some might say that having a limit on how much each post can be on twitter means that it eliminates junk and very opinionated views which in turns allows more time to fit in more information. However there are two concerns that I have discovered in this feature. The first is that correct spelling and grammar tend to be the first to go. How is that then a good journalistic practice, especially when journalism is about reporting accurately and clearly?

The second concern that I would like to mention is the possible loss of meaning in a story when it is compacted down to be as simple as possible to fit into the 140 character limit.

“How did a respected base commander manage to live a double life as a sexual predator? This question can’t be answered in 140 character chunks. Twitter works nicely for providing links to existing stories, but with all due respect to those who consider it the future of news, it is not a workable or desirable medium for journalism. Twitter’s limitations make it a poor medium for news coverage”. (De Monte, 2011)

This is exactly what I mean. How can you take a complex issue and try to at best describe it, at worse to answer it in 140 characters? I mean it’s just not creditable and viable to the journalistic practices.

To conclude then I must ask is twitter journalism? My response is no, but it is a great tool for journalists to share news, receive feedback and to even get story ideas. However it is too easy to circulate false or miss-leading information so in my opinion twitter is best suited to general conversations rather than being and outlet for journalistic practices.

REFERENCES

Clark R. 20011. How Journalists are using Facebook, Twitter to write mini serial narratives

De Monte M. 2011. Twitter isn’t Journalism

O’Connor R. 2008. Word Mouse: Credibility, Journalism and emerging Social media

Posetti J. 2010. How Journalists are using Twitter in Australia

Scott M. 2010. The golden age for Australian Journalism

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