Twitter As The Accessory?

For some time there has been debate over the future of journalism. Opinions are currently circulating about what is ‘destructing’ this industry. Many critics are blaming ‘new media’ technologies such as Twitter. It is apparent that Twitter is influencing journalism…Whether it is for good or worse, it is important to consider the ever-changing nature of this industry.

Journalists thrive off current affairs and being the first to voice a story. Social media, in particular, Twitter, has made this possible. Cardiff University’s Director of Undergraduate Studies, John Jewell, has credibly noted that journalists’ roles have undergone significant alterations. He claims: “Twitter never sleeps and neither does a modern journalist…” (1). Consequently, this report investigates the complementary role that Twitter is playing in modern-day journalism.

Driving Traffic To News Sites

Twitter has given traditional news media a platform to expand their audience catchment area. In the latter section of his article, Jewell identifies Twitter as a key contributor to the new found success that news sites like The Guardian have recently experienced. “Twitter drives traffic to The Guardian’s sites from areas where there is no print edition. In this sense, Twitter facilitates the global expansion of The Guardian into previously difficult-to-reach markets,” he says (1). So, it appears that this social media site has something special to offer…

Twitter has the ability to decrease the time it takes for the media to reach and inform the public, making it a revolutionary tool for the news industry. Scot Hacker and Ashwin Seshagiri, reveal this in their peer-reviewed work for the Berkeley University of California. They draw on data that was produced the evening the death of Osama Bin Laden was announced (2011). They found that this topic was tracking 12.4 million tweets per hour (4,000 per second); however, considering Twitter’s 140-character limit, the information or ideas expressed in these tweets were not extensive. Considering this, Scot and Seshagiri claim: “A large portion of these tweets were pointing back to traditional media sources. Twitter alone wasn’t enough for…readers – they were still going to traditional news sites to get the full story” (5).

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 5.39.37 pm

On a different note, Twitter enables traditional news platforms to take matters into their own hands. TV channels, Radio stations and Newspaper companies have the opportunity to promote and market their stories by setting up a certified Twitter account. The Sydney Morning Herald, for example, has owned a Twitter account for seven years – now, serving almost half a million people. The screen-clipping above was taken on the 27th October, 2015 (12). For this particular story the Sydney Morning Herald has included a headline, a photo, a hashtag and a direct link to their featured story. The majority of Twitter users will scroll through their Twitter feed rather quickly; hence, these tools are effective because they are easy for the mind to process. In return people become tempted to stop and check out the full story on the news site.

Immediacy – Circulation of NewsInfographic

In today’s society, there’s no denying that word gets around quick, and it appears that Twitter is becoming increasingly effective in this sense. Technology journalist and writer for Bitesize Digital Digest, Alex Masters, claims: “Twitter interaction has become synonymous with news reporting” (2). When public news surfaces in a community, for people who have witnessed or been a part of the potential story, it is only natural for them to want to share it with those around them. The Director of Student Media at Louisiana State University Steve Buttry identifies how journalists can use this to their advantage. “By using Twitter’s advanced search, you can quickly find and connect with these people…” he says (4). Users can use this tool to join in the discussion. This results in thousands of people channelling their thoughts through the one medium, allowing the story to grow in an exponential manner.

Desiree Hill, author of the journal article, ‘Twitter: Journalism Chases the Greased Pig’, claims: “Breaking news is where Twitter truly scores in terms of growth” (6). On page six she references statistics from TV Week revealing that in 2008, on the day of the presidential election, Twitter use grew 43%. This is an outstanding increase and indicates that journalism is changing – these days anyone and everyone can take to Twitter and speak their mind, whether it is regarding local, national or international events.

Innovative Features – Speeding Up the News Gathering Process

VIDEO – what a typical journalist might do when searching for a story

Twitter provides journalists with tools that make the news-gathering process less complex. Every Twitter user has the option to create ‘lists’, add users to those lists and monitor lists created by other users they are interested in. Hacker and Seshagiri conform their analysis to the needs of modern-day journalists. They say: “As a journalist, you might create custom lists for: other journalists, other publications, journalists at your own publication, community leaders, school leaders in your community, economists, data visualisation experts, sports reporters covering soccer leads” (5). Consequently, by using this tool journalists have information at their fingertips. Hill also identifies the significance of another tool. “Newsrooms may create internal ‘Twitter feeds’ of credible news sources, such as politicians and state government entities, for use as a mini-wire service,” she says on page eight of her article (6). 

Screen Shot 2015-10-30 at 7.31.26 am

In contrast, there are Twitter features that allow newsrooms to build a relationship with real people in the community, instead of constantly relying on expert opinions. Dr. Carrie Brown is the author of ‘New Opportunities For Diversity: Twitter, Journalists and Traditionally Underserved Communities’. On page two of this she claims: “…Twitter represents a new opportunity for news organisations to connect with underrepresented communities as both sources and audiences for news” (7). The ‘trend’ function of Twitter allows journalists to monitor trending topics. As a result they can determine blanket topics of interest to the public on any given day, almost instantaneously. Consequently, Twitter’s capacity to serve many models — one-to-one, one-to-many, many-to-one — makes it innovative and effective as a disseminator of news.

https://soundcloud.com/isobelreardon/susan-hetherington-blogging – Journalist and journalism educator, Susan Hetherington, speaks about how one of Twitter’s close counterparts is also having innovative effects

But is Twitter Always Reliable?

In reality, an accessory might not appeal to every outfit. This social media platform is not always a trustworthy source for facts and figures. Journalists have been known to jump to conclusions when under pressure to break the story first. This happened during the Boston Bombing, for example, and again with the coverage of the Navy Yard shooting in 2013. Political Staff Writer, Tess Vandendolder, speaks about this event in one of her articles for DC Inno. She says: “…journalists turned to social media, quickly sharing misinformation until it became nearly impossible to distinguish fact from fiction. In our digital age, when communication is boiled down to 140 characters and can reach an audience of millions with the click of a mouse, it’s become harder and harder for news organisations to fact check their information while still breaking the story first” (9).

In the same sense, a lot of journalists and news media have taken to crowdsourcing to get their answers – assuming that what they obtain will be correct. Buttry claims: “For an effective Twitter user, answers can come in seconds. [But] You may have to verify those answers…” (4). Therefore, credibility is an issue. Each Twitter user may be on the site for a different reason.

https://soundcloud.com/isobelreardon/susan-hetherington-twitter-vs-traditional-journalism – Hetherington notions Twitter’s place in traditional journalism

Twitter is Blurring the Lines Between ‘Public’ and ‘Private’ Opinion

Amanda Hess, a writer from slate.com, speaks about an incident where a citizen journalist came across a news article that she had a strong opinion about. Unsurprisingly, she tweeted the link, alongside some controversial commentary, to her 13,000 followers. Little did she realise that BuzzFeed, an American internet news media company, would re-use her words and put her in an undesirable spotlight. When debating whether or not permission was required, Amanda Hess says: “Poynter ethicist Kelly McBride decided that…Buzzfeed…wasn’t required to ask…” (10). Hence, it evident that people who use Twitter as a private tool, sometimes forget that everything that is written on this site is always public. It is possible that someone will quote something a user has said for re-use in their news story. This is something that should be implicitly accepted when beginning to post Twitter.

https://soundcloud.com/isobelreardon/susan-hetherington-a-further-implication – Hetherington identifies a further implication

Unwanted Comments?

In many instances, hostility has broken out online, and Twitter is commonly blamed as the likely source. Twitter has been renowned for hosting what are referred to as ‘Twitter feuds’. When news accounts or journalists on Twitter invite their Twitter followers to discuss the corresponding issue or event, there is the potential that these ‘keyboard warriors’ will leave comments that diminish the integrity of the site or blog. Professor of Media and Communication at the Queensland University of Technology and author of, ‘A Citizen Journalism Primer’, Terry Flew, identifies the inevitability of this issue. In his work he references British journalist and editor, Ian Hargreaves, who claims: “In a democracy, everyone is a journalist. This is because, in a democracy, everyone has the right to communicate a fact or a point of view…” (8).

So, What Does This Mean For the Future of Journalism?

As a result, it appears that the future of journalism is now in the hands of technology. Unfortunately, it remains unclear whether the pros of Twitter outweigh the cons. Either way, Twitter isn’t disappearing anytime soon. As columnist, journalist and editor, Bronwen Clune, claims: “We need a diverse media landscape. Twitter and social media play a vital role in that future” (3). The changing nature of Twitter has meant that the journalism industry is constantly having to re-evaluate its objectives and means of communication, and this will continue until this site reaches a point of stabilisation. Until then, journalists will have to make a conscious effort to use Twitter professionally and responsibly.

Word Count = 1543

References

(1) http://theconversation.com/how-twitter-has-helped-the-emergence-of-a-new-journalism-19841 (Accessed 20 October 2015)

(2) http://blogs.independent.co.uk/2013/01/31/twitter-experiences-yet-another-outage-are-we-relying-too-much-on-tweets/ (Accessed 20 October, 2015)

(3) http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/nov/13/so-twitter-is-ruining-journalism-really (Accessed 19 October 2015

(4) https://stevebuttry.wordpress.com/2012/08/27/10-ways-twitter-is-valuable-to-journalists/ (Accessed 20 October 2015) 

(5) http://multimedia.journalism.berkeley.edu/tutorials/twitter/ (Accessed 20 October 2015)

(6) http://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc30464/m2/1/high_res_d/thesis.pdf (Accessed 19 October 2015)

(7) https://online.journalism.utexas.edu/2011/papers/Brown2011.pdf (Accessed 19 October 2015)

(8) http://eprints.qut.edu.au/10232/1/10232.pdf (Accessed 20 October 2015)

(9) http://dcinno.streetwise.co/2013/09/18/cnn-reporter-explores-how-twitter-is-ruining-good-political-journalism/ (Accessed 25 October 2015)

(10) http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/technology/2014/03/twitter_journalism_private_lives_public_speech_how_reporters_can_ethically.html (Accessed 25 October 2015)

(11) http://www.journalism.org/2015/07/14/news-use-on-facebook-and-twitter-is-on-the-rise/  (Accessed 29 October 2015)

(12) https://twitter.com/smh?lang=en (Accessed 29 October 2015)

(13) http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/accessory (Accessed October 20 2015)

Header Image: created with four separate images sourced from freepik.com, using Pages

Youtube Video: music sourced from http://dig.ccmixter.org/free
-> Drops of H2O ( The Filtered Water Treatment ) by J.Lang (c) 2012 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. http://ccmixter.org/files/djlang59/37792 Ft: Airtone

Infographic: data sourced from http://www.pewresearch.org/  (11) and made with https://infogr.am/   

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