The Impact of Twitter on Journalism | Off Book | PBS

Uploaded by PBSoffbook on 15.11.2012

There's so many places to get good information now and I think that news
organizations have changed. One of the problems for journalists is how do we
stand out? How do we get our journalism and good journalism to float to the top?
Journalists who really excel at twitter are those who recognize that it's not just a promotional platform
but really as a global conversation. News is constant, it's
a never-ending flow. It has no beginning. It has no end. We have to break out of this idea
that news is a once a day product.
We have to get out of this idea. All we do is make content
in the form
of articles. We can do much more than that. Instead, we have to think of journalism
as an ecosystem.
When twitter came along,
journalists got it pretty quickly.
And they understood, first, that it was a vehicle for self-promotion. Then they started to realize
that they could use twitter to report and say, well this is what I know, what do you know?
What do you want to know?
Who should I talk to? It became a mechanism for collaboration and now, suddenly,
they had a voice. If you look at Andy Carvin
in the Arab Spring. The flow of information in the arab spring was going on without a
mediator. Andy saw that and he
added journalistic value to it. He debunked rumors, he asked people to
crowd source with him and translate videos. He added context and so on and so on and so on.
We're still assuming that journalism is about making a product
and I think it's more about performing a service. And we, as journalists, have to ask
when and how we add value to that.
In the beginning, a lot of journalists saw twitter as a threat. They were like, "Oh there's
this huge source of information. Am I gonna get put out of a job? Is twitter
gonna take over?"
and really twitter and journalism go hand in hand. Twitter is a source of
information. Because twitter doesn't have any sort of editorial staff and there's
no filter it has a very different role from what journalists have, which is to be that
filter. Journalists are great at analyzing information and synthesizing what does
that mean in historical context.
Now news is a twenty four-hour cycle. That means they need to be on top of the news.
You really have to start developing the story as it's going along. The great thing about twitter is
that it is self-correcting. In the past, you would have maybe one or two sources confirming
something, now you have a global resource that can help you fact check your process.
It really is an ecosystem of news.
So, the journalists shouldn't see twitter as a threat,
they should see it as a helping hand on the road towards creating better news.
We need journalists because, on social media, if we keep surrounding ourselves
around like minded voices and our friends and our family, that's going to be all the
information we get. And
that kind of shapes your worldview based on your social media connections. Social
media, it's useful in a number of ways for journalists but you have to worry about
not having certain editors saying this is important and this is not important.
If the people truly have the
power over what is news and what is not, that's gonna be
very different landscape. People, in general, are interested in things like
celebrities and
things that are funny. They're interested in what's going on right here in the United
States but maybe not as much in the world. It's almost scary how often we're seeing
roundups now: this is what people are saying on twitter, this is what people are saying
on facebook and, I have to ask this question though, is it actually news worthy? Another thing we
forget that's really important is that there are a lot of people who are not on
facebook and twitter
and their voices are not being heard. So, I think, for a journalist, the important
thing is that we filter through all the noise and surface the most important
If you worked in a news room twenty years ago, most people consumed information
and they consumed the information that you produced, if they consumed information at all.
I think, all of a sudden, journalists are kind of face to face with the fact lots
of people are speaking all at once. There isn't just one way to be a journalist anymore
and the one advantage that younger generations have over older generations
is not that they know more, it's simply that they have less to unlearn. Determining the
veracity of something on twitter is obviously a lot different than determining
whether a government official is telling you something that's true or not. It's hard
to change your habits after you've had them for a while.
So, I think that we tend to mythologize how good news reporting
used to be in the
past and
that's not entirely how it was. So we need to keep that in mind. There isn't always a golden age
and sometimes we can hurt ourselves by imagining that there was.
In journalism there are isolated pockets of people who
have stories to tell. Twitter really enables them to rise to the top. There
are so many voices out there and we need somebody to say this is factual information
or this is what you need to know.
I don't know if news organizations can
honestly make the argument that we're sort of the best anymore.
It's not about having professional journalists and citizen journalists and
paid people and unpaid people. Acts of journalism can be performed by anyone.