The power of Twitter in today’s media.

Posted: October 31, 2009 in General
Tags: , , , , ,

It seems that Twitter has become the latest method of the press and various news outlets to gather stories for their sites and papers. Many news sites have reported on Stephen Fry’s twitter saying he’s thinking of disconnecting from the twitterverse. It’s fair enough for the media to comment on famous people, but really? Twitter? I really think the barrel is well and truly being scraped in terms of getting news as quickly as possible. Twitter is a powerful tool of communication, allowing celebrities to keep in touch with their fans…it’s rare for a celebrity figure not to have a twitter account. But should the media be getting their stories from it?

I often rant about the instant nature of the world’s media and how they will jump on any story, whether it’s confirmed or not. Several examples spring to mind.

  • Earlier this month, a child was reportedly cast away inside a weather balloon and major network news channels jumped on this like a flash, desperate to be the first to get the scoop. To be the first to get the shot of the child coming out of the balloon. As it turned out, it was a hoax.
  • In 2008 news came through that some bones had been found on Saddleworth Moor, the site that the Moors Murderer used to dump bodies after killing them. Speculation was that it was the final missing victim from these murders and it was reported all over the UK. No doubt it got the hopes up of the family of the victim, as well as ensuring that the press had another reason to harass them. In the end, the bones were found to be that of a goat.
  • Also in 2008, Kevin Keegan was widely reported to have resigned from his position as Newcastle United’s manager. It took three days to be sorted out after the initial press speculation and he eventually did leave his post. I always wonder whether he could have stayed in charge if the press had not made his position untenable with their reporting.
  • When Jade Goody was terminally ill with cancer, various magazines actually brought out obituary magazines before the poor girl had even died.

I’ve never been a fan of instant media, whilst it can be interesting it also gives an excuse for poor journalism as quality controls are waived for the possibility of being the very first to get the story. In the days before 24-hour and online news, journalists had chance to double-check their stories before publication but that doesn’t really happen any more. I’d like to see a little more journalistic integrity, and will always prefer the printed media of the broadsheets to the instant and uncontrolled online media, as it tends to be more accurate and much better written. Seems ironic, for someone using an online media to write opinion pieces, but I at least take the time to check what I’m writing!

So, Stephen Fry considers leaving twitter, and this makes a major story on the BBC News website, it’s also one of the main headlines on Sky News. Is that how slow the world of news really is? Why can’t they, instead of filling their websites with stories like this which to be fair is not newsworthy in the slightest (except maybe in the showbiz columns), start to develop better features and better stories on items that do deserve the space? I think it’s poor. Whilst noting the irony of the power twitter has in controlling the media, surely the media can’t use twitter for news? I hope Stephen stays with twitter, because his tweets help people feel like they can connect with him, but he has to do it on his terms rather than feel pressured into doing so. Of course, he could just not update any more but I’m willing to bet if he did that the press would go ape if he chose to make further updates after a break.

It’s well documented about how Twitter has been used in many influential ways of persuasion and petitioning, but let’s keep it as a fun, friendly means of communicating instead of feeling like a chore to everyone.

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