2011 marked the first time I actually used Twitter for something. Granted, I had a post from early 2010 but I don’t really think it counts…

The reason I found a use for Twitter was because we were required to use it as a journalistic tool this semester for ABJ1 (advanced broadcast journalism) at uni.

So, while at first I was reluctant to tweet and found it difficult to understand, the further into the course I got the more I began to understand just how useful this simple status updater is.

The uses I found for Twitter, being a simple sports media student, were mainly in updating my twitter stream with sports news and following prominent people in the sports media world. It is good to be able to follow the happenings of journalists and sports stars as many things are introduced through Twitter before anywhere else.

This leads to what is probably Twitter’s most important asset: Immediacy.

Journalists all around the world now use Twitter as a means of publishing information instantly to the world. Recent events showcase how powerful a tool Twitter is in this sense. The Iranian elections, and ensuing violent aftermath, provides as excellent example of Twitter being a journalistic tool.

While there was rioting and fighting in the streets, information and photos could be instantly broadcast to the world by way of a smartphone, something that most journalists should have these days and that our course convener, Julie Posetti, suggested we (journalism students) should all invest in.

This meant the public all around the world knew about what was happening, civilians being shot, the unrest, everything was instant news. There is even an iran elections twitter page

The downfall of this technique of news spreading, however, is that the immediacy leaves us wanting for verification.

Julie Posetti discusses this in depth in her blog, saying “…professional journalists will be judged more harshly by society if they RT content which later proves to be false — particularly in the context of a crisis. This goes to their professional credibility and their employer’s.” (Posetti, J 2009 “Rules of Engagement for Journalists on Twitter”, http://www.pbs.org/mediashift/julie-posetti). To read the complete blog click here.

The point of this is that much information that journalists retweet (that is, quote directly to the public) is not verified and could be completely false or misleading. With so much emphasis on immediacy, journalists are caught between getting the information to the public as fast as possible, or trying to verify it and missing the scoop.

I think that people who are getting their news from Twitter on a serious basis should be aware that the trade off for quick news is less validity. This is not to say that Twitter news is invalid completely, most of it is very reliable, but it leaves less time to check sources.

Rory O’Connor describes this point perfectly in his paper on social media.

Facing a virtual tsunami of unfiltered

information—powered by an ongoing technological revolution that has

democratized tools of media production and distribution, created by an

unprecedented amalgam of increasingly beleaguered professional journalists and

newly besotted amateur ‘citizen reporters,’ and distributed via a wide variety of

both traditional and new media—how can any of us be sure that the news and

information we see and hear is true? Which reports and reporters can we trust

and rely on to be credible?” (O’Connor, 2009 “Word of Mouse: Credibility, Journalism and Emerging Social Media” ).

A major pitfall  can see with Twitter is tweeting something without thinking, and regretting it immediately.

I haven’t done this, because I’m not an idiot, but there are people who have and have gotten into a lot of trouble because of it. The Stephanie Rice example in my earlier blog demonstrates this perfectly.

It is for this very reason, we have learned, that many professionals have two twitter accounts. One for their professional tweets, such as journalism updates, and one for playing around with and to tweet their friends etc.

I only have one account, and I am likely to keep it that way. While I have learned to use twitter, and I must admit it is more enjoyable than I first thought, I can’t see myself becoming a journalist and needing to constantly update a professional account. My account serves the purpose of tweeting what I need to tweet. Also, I am not the kind of person who is going to tweet something stupid (referring to Manly’s Brett Stewart in callous ways is not stupid) and I will probably continue to use twitter to follow and update my followers on sporting results and happenings.

Roy Peter Clark speaks in his blog on twitter about how social media can be used to create mini serial narratives. That is to say, tweets can keep readers hooked, waiting for the next installment.

” there are signs of mini-serialization everywhere: in the cartoon strips and panels that let us visit our favorite characters each morning; in the racehorse coverage of local and national elections; in recurring news stories about Chilean miners trapped in a mine, or a British Petroleum well polluting the Gulf of Mexico.” (Clark, R P (2011) How journalists are using Facebook Twitter to write mini-serial narratives).

These examples are perfect for discussing Twitter’s use in the journalistic world.

So many updates were posted about the progress of the Chilean miners. An abundance of information flowed onto our smartphone screens about the BP oil leak on the Gulf of Mexico.

To be the first to know what is happening in these circumstances people tune in to their twitter feeds, and hope that what they are being fed is true. Most likely it is, but there’s always that chance that there has been some truth bending (this does not just apply to twitter; fox news is the biggest sham in the world).

One thing that annoyed me, and I know from talking to other students that it annoyed them too, was following professionals who use their account to play around as well as for journalism.

Julie suggested we follow Mark Colvin, a presenter on ABC radio and quite  good journalist. To begin with he was good to follow, constantly updating his tweet stream with interesting links.

But then he started playing his ‘artwiculate’ game with other tweeters, and it all went downhill.

My news feed was constantly flooded with Colvin and his idiot mates tweeting stupid rhymes and such to each other, it was seriously annoying. Subsequently I stopped following Colvin.

So I have learned this semester that Twitter can be sued as a very helpful journalistic tool in delivering immediate news as it happens. Tweets from the press gallery let us know what is happening in politics before the delayed coverage of the always exciting question time or the next day’s newspaper can tell us. Sports results and behind the scenes updates can keep us informed on the exciting part of news. But it is important that professionals use their account as a professional tool. If they want to mess around on Twitter and be taken seriously as a journalist/politician/role model, then they should have a secondary account that they state is not for serious matters.

Thanks for reading chuuuuuumps!