Posts Tagged 'breaking news on Twitter'

Who wags who?

Martin Moore’s discussion around the death of Ian Tomlinson and the subsequent investigation and unearthing of footage by the Guardian raises some interesting points about the place ‘old media (for want of a better phrase) have today:

“Would the ‘truth’ surrounding Mr Tomlinson’s death have come to light had it not been sought out by journalists, and then published as the lead story in the Guardian? Perhaps, but I don’t think so.”

Then there’s the Damian McBride email scandal that may have broken in the blogosphere but still needed the traditional media to completely take it into the scandal it has now become. Would McBride have resigned if the accusations had just appeared on Guido Fawkes’ blog and nowhere else [1]?

But, by the same token, these stories wouldn’t have become as big had it not been for the work of social media, with videos of Tomlinson and alleged police brutality at the G20 protests circulating around the internet. And in the midst of this, the Guardian showed how a mainstream media’s website spread this using social media tactics.

Then, on a lighter news story, Pete Cashmore muses at Mashable on Ashton Kutcher’s passing of the 1 million Twitter followers mark:

“And yet this assumes that social media needs mainstream media to justify its existence: that without its blessing social media is not confirmed. But mainstream media is increasingly becoming an echo of social media, allowing YouTube’s masses to define what matters (Susan Boyle, the Domino’s Pizza scandal) and mirroring that public sentiment.

For now, Twitter needs mainstream media more than mainstream media needs Twitter. But Ashton has an audience of 1 million at his fingertips: how much longer will the talent need its mainstream middleman?”

Is this a case of the tail wagging the dog or the dog wagging the tail? Or just a case of having a double-headed, double-tailed canine?

Chris Applegate makes an interesting comparion between the coverage of Hillsborough twenty years ago and the coverage of the G20.

Back in the 1980s, it was much easier for the police (with a little help from The Sun) to get out their version, deflecting blame and smearing the innocent. Today, the police’s account of the G20 was quickly contradicted by the wealth of material available. One wonders if the families of the 96 would still be campaigning for justice if Hillsborough had happened today.

At the moment, both social media and traditional media are probably wagging each other. The footage of Ian Tomlinson would probably have gained traction without the Guardian, but the newspaper’s work meant it was disseminated much quicker. McBride’s emails may well have just stuck to the Westminster gossip blogs  if the papers hadn’t run with it [2].

Certainly with significant news stories that originate in niche communities, then it probably does require a helping hand from the traditional press to take it that step further. But the lines are getting increasingly narrow between the two.

If you have an interest in an area, mainstream or niche, you’ll probably hear the news before it makes it to the mainstream media, but it’s also never been easier for journalists to keep tabs on what’s getting the internet buzzing – and if that’s beyond the usual geek or early adopter buzz, there’s a good chance it’s a story that more people will be interested in.

And then you’ve got somebody like Susan Boyle, who was on a primetime show like Britain’s Got Talent and got the traditional media and the social media talking, and social media helped turn Susan Boyle into a global superstar, which, in turn, became a story for traditional media.

My brain hurts.

Both sides still need each other still, but it remains to be seen for how much longer. Journalists are still gatekeepers, sorting the wheat from the chaff in the internet world, albeit with no small amount of help from places like Twitter. And when they do manage to come together, like the Guardian’s excellent work with the Ian Tomlinson story, then it can really take off.

And one final note that’s probably significant in some small way. When news broke that Tomlinson didn’t die of a heart attack, as was originally though, thenews was all over Twitter. But the most retweeted user on this was Krishnan Guru-Murthy, the Channel 4 News anchor.

Like I say, both sides still need each other.

[1] Ok, this is being very simplistic. No blog is an island and that’s one of the joys of the web. If people like what’s blogged or Tweeted, it soon finds its way onto other blogs.

[2] It’s worth remembering that while the likes of Gudio and Iain Dale are seen as influential within Westminster, once you leave this behind, recognition of their names probably diminishes. You can be interested in politics without having heard of either, especially if you don’t spend a great deal of time reading blogs. There is a world beyond the blogs.

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This really should be the last example of why journalists and media-type people need to at least know how to get the best out of Twitter

This is cool. It’s a picture taken by Marcus Warren from The Telegraph of the paper’s newsroom. That thingy on the left-hand screen of Twitterfall, an application that lets you track topics via a cascade in real time. This makes it invaluable for tracking breaking news stories via Twitter.

For a bit more on Twitterfall, and a quick guide to using this excellent application, Paul Bradshaw has more.

Now, regardless of whether you think Twitter is the second coming or view it as a place for trendy media types to hang out, the fact that the Telegraph has a Twitter app on a big screen in their newsroom suggests that they view it as a part of the newsgathering process (as it has been for a while now).

It’s not just journalists who can make use of this. PR can use it to react in real time to those occasional crises that require an immediate bit of reputation management. It’s also useful for seeing how a story you’ve put out there develops.

Twitter may be the flavour of the month, but when you strip back the hype it is, quite simply, another communication tool – and a very basic one at that. The really exciting stuff comes with third-party apps like Twitterfall and the countless other tools that are being developed.

This small mircoblogging site is now part of the media process, be it news or PR. Get used to it.

EDIT: You’ll note in the title that I’ve said need to know how to get the best out of Twitter. Not necessarily get on Twitter. There’s enough stuff out there that you can quite effectively get a lot out of Twitter without actually being a member. However, I’d still maintain that if you want to get the best out of the site – especially when it comes to engaging online – it’s helpful to give it a go and sign up. You may not get it or, after an initial flurry, decide not to post very often. But at least you have a presence on there if it’s needed.

This may actually be the point I finally shut up about Twitter and journalism

A point, I think, has been reached. Quite where this point sites and what exactly it signifies is perhaps not quite the  issue. But it is a point that has been reached nonetheless.

That point is, as Adam Tinworth says is moving “from something that is used by the social media cognoscenti amongst journalists, to something that is rapidly spreading amongst the more web aware hack.”

Although Twitter’s use as a breaking news source isn’t exactly a new thing [1], with a growing number of users and an increasing number of both journalists and users all over the globe, it’s now reached the point where it’s the first place people are looking when something breaks.

And it’s also now become the norm that newspapers are reporting about the immediacy of breaking news on Twitter, as opposed to treating it as an interesting sideshow. Witness the Telegraph’s very good write up of yesterday’s New York plane crash.

That crash, along with the Mumbai attacks, seems to have convinced sceptical journalists to at least give the service a go. And once journalists try out something new, they’ll write about it, even if only a limited number of people are using it. That’ll then bump up the number of people who give it a go [2].

In the past few days, I’ve seen a serious rise in the number of people I personally know joining Twitter, while the number of people following me has also risen dramatically (I think they’ve nearly doubled already this month), as has our corporate accounts at work.

Having a slew of famous names join as well has also given it credibility. Never mind the sneering articles written about these (although, and I may be along in this, I thought Bryony Gordon’s piece was quite funny), the fact you have such a diverse range of celebs on there shows there’s an appeal across a range of personalities.

Stephen Fry, Robert Llewellyn, Will Carling, and Andy Murray have all helped. And then there’s Jonathan Ross, courting controversy with a few comments, but also quickly becoming the Twitterer’s favourite celebrity.

Ross, will his huge contacts book, has been verifying celebrities as they join Twitter (or don’t), and last night posted photos of him introducing the service to Danny Wallace and Eddie Izzard.

Phillip Schofield, who I think is the first ITV celeb to join, got Tweeting on Monday and has lept straight in, and is already being inundated with plenty of Twitter love. He’s already proving to be a great role model on how to use the service [3].

So, Twitter is finally moving into the mainstream now that it’s moved beyond a curiosity and into a genuinely useful communication tool (not that it wasn’t already). Quite where it goes from here, and how it goes, I have no idea. But it’s going to be fascinating to see how the site develops in the next few months.

And it also means I can probably stop banging on about how and why journalists should use it, because they’re now doing just that. Which will probably come as a relief to everybody.

[1] See the Exeter bomb blast last year.

[2] See also: The Wire. Until a few months ago, the only people I knew who’d actually watched this were Guardian journalists and people who knew Guardian journalists. That sentence hasn’t even been written for comic effect.

[3] And, about half an hour ago, gave me advice on the best organic veg box company to use in London.


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Yes, this is my name. And my email. Use it wisely or you're not getting a biscuit with your tea: garyllewellynandrews [at] gmail [dot] com