Is twitter valuable to journalists?

“Journalism is literature in a hurry.” – Matthew Arnold

And just how apt is the above quote in showing how speed has become an expected factor for technology users nowadays? Many of us are replacing traditional newspapers with our own customised Twitter feeds because of how quickly news can reach us and be circulated in real time through social media platforms. Even without following news websites or any official newsroom’s Twitter accounts, one can easily access breaking news just by simply searching trending topics or #hashtags.

Having been spoiled by the internet and various high-tech devices (which have no doubt made our lives more convenient), many of us now expect instant gratification. And Twitter has been one of the platforms egging us on.

But have we begun to trade credibility for haste?

There have been several instances of journalistic mistakes made on social media platforms, whereby wrong information had been disseminated and circulated. And we all know… once the re-tweeting or sharing starts, even if the original message is deleted or edited, the wrong tweet has already made its way halfway around the world and will have become impossible to track and stop. But the reverse applies as well; once an edited message is posted, it can also reach the masses at a similar pace.

So… the question at hand: Is Twitter a valuable asset to journalists? My answer to that is a resounding YES.

Why do I say that? Let me count thy ways:

1. Stories break on Twitter – When public news breaks in one’s community, be it a natural disaster or a terrorist attack, people who have seen or experienced the event tweet about it. According to Buttry (2012), “a reporter’s challenge in covering such news has always been to try and find people who witnessed the event or were affected by it”. With Twitter, this has changed. Advanced search features on Twitter enable journalists to easily identify and connect with sources they can use and quote.

2. Twitter could be hiding your next big story – By effectively utilizing Twitter and following newsworthy people or organizations (eg. Apple Inc. or Samsung), you have a greater chance of scoring something news worthy. Public figures and companies often use Twitter to “announce news, express views and respond to people in the community” (Buttry, 2012). Even the interactions between people of interest or (rival) organizations can aid you in finding a story!

3. Find sources/answers quickly – Crowdsourcing is an effective way to get answers to your burning questions fast, especially if you have already managed to gather a substantial number of followers. Followers can also help to link you to somebody they know or help in finding the right people to answer your questions if necessary.

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(Andy Carvin from the National Public Radio using crowdsourcing to verify information).

4. Social networks give indication of what people care about (Hahn, 2013) – Browsing through social media communities help identify the trending conversations that are taking place, and can in turn help journalists decide what stories to cover over others.

In short, news gathering on social media has become extremely essential to journalism; Joanna Carr of BBC Radio 4 said, “I wouldn’t hire anyone who doesn’t know how to use Twitter” (Hahn, 2013). So get yourself a Twitter account (if you haven’t already!) and score that BIG story today!

References

Buttry, S. 2012. 10 Ways Twitter is valuable to journalists. Accessed 30 May 2013. Available at http://stevebuttry.wordpress.com/2012/08/27/10-ways-twitter-is-valuable-to-journalists/

Hahn, N. 2013. What Good Is Twitter: The value of social media to public service journalism. Accessed 30 May 2013. Available at http://www2.lse.ac.uk/media@lse/POLIS/documents/What-good-is-twitter.pdf