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.
- It’s an amazing form of distribution
- It’s where things happen first
- As a search engine, it rivals Google
- It’s a formidable aggregation tool
- It’s a great reporting tool
- It’s a fantastic form of marketing
- It’s a series of common conversations. Or it can be
- It’s more diverse
- It changes the tone of writing
- It’s a level playing field
- It has different news values
- It has a long attention span
- It creates communities
- It changes notions of authority
- 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).