Alan Rusbridger on why Twitter matters for journalists

In a wide-ranging speech on the state of journalism, Alan Rusbridger made a persuasive case for the value of Twitter in journalism

The editor-in-chief of The Guardian noted how often people in the media roll “their eyes at the mention of Twitter”. So he put forward 15 reasons why Twitter matters for the media.

  1. It’s an amazing form of distribution
  2. It’s where things happen first
  3. As a search engine, it rivals Google
  4. It’s a formidable aggregation tool
  5. It’s a great reporting tool
  6. It’s a fantastic form of marketing
  7. It’s a series of common conversations. Or it can be
  8. It’s more diverse
  9. It changes the tone of writing
  10. It’s a level playing field
  11. It has different news values
  12. It has a long attention span
  13. It creates communities
  14. It changes notions of authority
  15. It is an agent of change

The list is a strong starting point for any journalist or media organisation still on the fence about Twitter.

The key is understanding how Twitter is different to other media platforms. Rusbridger hints at this in his comment that Twitter has different news values.

Acts of journalism are taking place on Twitter all the time.  People are taking on the role of the reporter or editor. But it can be hard to recognise this as journalism, as these are fragments of journalism, rather than the traditional practice of packaging the news in a finished product.

I have written about this as ambient journalism:

Journalism, which was once difficult and expensive to produce, today surrounds us like the air we breathe. Much of it is, literally, ambient, and being produced by professionals and citizens. The challenge going forward is helping the public negotiate and regulate this flow of awareness information, facilitating the collection, transmission and understanding of news.

Rather than decry Twitter as inane, journalists need to engage and understand the nature of the medium. As Rusbridger points out, “saying that Twitter has got nothing to do with the news business is about as misguided as you could be”.

At the Guardian and Observer, more than 450 people are on Twitter, together with 70 different single-subject sites or section feeds.

(Photo of Alan Rusbridger courtesy of Toastwife).

7 Comments

  • Good summary of a nice bit of thinking around how twitter can add to the mix. How about a 16th point: it’s a fantastic networking tool (& shouldn’t all good journalists have a bulging address book of contacts?)

  • Lesley Parker says:

    Yes, it has extended my contact list, and as a result improved my stories … there’s less danger of speaking to the same old people every time – the ‘rent a crowd’ trap. My stories now include more diverse views from a wider range of interviewees. Yes, you have to vet contacts on twitter carefully — as you should in the ‘real’ world. I was a complete sceptic, but now I totally ‘get’ it. Someone recently described it as a ‘tool of discovery’ and it really is.

  • As a multilingual video journalist looking for my next journalism career opportunity, Twitter is an online haven for news tips, networking and job opportunities.
    Soon after I became a Twitter user, I followed the work of different journalists, Tweeted back and forth with them and also met a very helpful CNN International journalist who connected me to a hiring manager there. Then I secured an interview in days.
    But like anything else, you must nurture your Twitter family. Stick around. Great things happen!

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