Tag Archives: news

Newspapers V Twitter

I don’t often buy a newspaper and nor it seems do my friends.  I do still get a Guardian on Saturdays though.

This weekend I was enjoying half an hour with the news pages when it struck me that this was not news to me at all. I knew it all already.

OK not every last story, but a significant number of articles were based on items I had already picked up on Twitter during the week.

Let’s look at them.  The Haiti earthquake, obviously. Then there was a piece about Fox News and Rupert Murdoch which was basically a re-write of something I had already read in the New York Times. I was directed there by someone on Twitter.

There was a story about the big dairy companies failing to pick up milk from farmers during the snow. This I knew already because I go walking with someone who knows someone who works for Dairy Crest.

Then there was ‘Bad Science’  a column by one of my favourite writers Ben Goldacre, who already tweeted his source material during the week….a very funny spoof piece about Woolworth stores lining up on ley lines, do check it out. But this meant his piece came as no surprise either.

Now I’m starting to wonder what’s going on and how I feel about it. It would appear that throughout the week I am my own editor. I have selected the news that interests me via Twitter. I have also talked to real people who have told me things. I am my own journalist.

Do I wish I had not devoted half an hour of my life to reading this again, this time on newsprint ? No, because it is actually quite re-assuring. My newspaper of choice has selected the stories that I am interested in, it has confirmed my identity, ‘I am a Guardian reader.’

This is an important function of newspapers today. To re-assure people about who they are. To confirm their choices and in some cases their prejudices. People like to read reports about the snow not because they don’t know we had a blizzard and got snowed in, but to re-assure themselves that it did indeed happen and our inconvenience was real.

Raw news picked up from Twitter may inform our minds but does it feed the part of us that wants to be told who we are ?

Who needs journalists ? We’ve got Twitter.

News keeps hitting me in the face. It leaps out of my Twitter stream and I find myself on top of stories that even my husband doesn’t know about and he works at BBC news.  http://news.bbc.co.uk/

As journalism expert Jeff Jarvis says in his excellent Buzz Machine blog  http://www.buzzmachine.com/ in the age of Twitter, news  comes to us and we distribute it.

Twitter has cracked open the whole business of information exchange. People with something to say no longer need to whisper their news to journalists in town hall corridors and pubs, they can pass the information directly to us via the Twitter stream. News finds its audience without having to be mediated by ‘experts’ and everyone gets the chance to write an opinion piece.  And if you think that leaves us  knee-deep in dross then think of the re-tweet button as your editor, which allows quality to rise to the top.

I find it an attractive and highly democratic scenario. Citizen journalism is already advanced. Not only are there millions of blogs, but people are up-loading their own video and photos at a rate that is leaving the conventional broadcasters struggling to keep up.

The BBC has appointed a social media editor, they increasingly allow the audience to drive the content of radio shows, in Philadelphia there are plans to create a citizen journalism hub which will feed into the mainstream media. All this creativity suggests that people are doing in for themselves and the big boys are being left behind.  As one BBC guy put it, ‘If it has been published on a web platform, then in effect we have already been scooped.’

And yet there is still something of the journalist in me that wonders if the ‘experts’ might still be of use, to spot the story and make the links, to pluck the dirt covered gems from the muddy Twitter stream, and polish them up for our consumption.

Let me know what you think. Is the journalist surplus to requirements in the Twitter age ?