Twitter has become increasingly popular since its start in 2006. Many people use it to get their news. According to a study by the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world, more than one-third of Twitter users use it to follow journalists or news organizations. There are many positives that Twitter has added to journalism, as well as many negatives. Let’s look at a couple of each.
- Twitter makes it easy to report news right as it is happening. Before Twitter and the internet, people got their news from newspapers, television or radio. The information would not always be up-to-date. Twitter has changed that. Events and stories that break are instantly tweeted and spread to the public. It has changed peoples’ expectations on how quickly they receive their news.
- Twitter allows interaction between users. Journalists are free to interact with their readers and vice versa. It starts conversations. Just because the story ends does not mean the discussion has to, as well. Finally, Twitter allows people around the world to view a journalist’s work, allowing, as the video from PBS above suggests, a global conversation.
- Twitter allows anyone to tweet whatever they want. Anyone can be a “journalist”. Rumors and inaccurate statements can be tweeted, and it is up to the people to check the credibility of the source. These rumors often become widespread and it is up to journalists to find out the real truth.
- With increasing pressure to tweet breaking news and other stories first, there is a greater chance of errors being reported, compared to print journalism. For example, CBSSports.com retweeted a report from a journalist who, through only one source, said former Penn State football coach, Joe Paterno, had died. He had not. Trying to break the story first was more important than waiting to confirm the story with multiple sources. As a result the credibility of CBS Sports suffered. This is not the only example of this happening.
Twitter has its positives (immediacy of information, interaction, etc.) and it has its negatives (rumors, error prone, etc.), but is it making journalism better? What is your opinion?