Twitter and Journalism

The digital age has revolutionised the media industry for journalists and readers alike. Not only has it reinvented the way we access and read our news, but also the ways in which journalists source and write their articles. The major factor for the shifting landscape of the journalism industry is Twitter. Without a doubt the most influential application to be released over the past decade, Twitter gives us access to an unlimited amount of news material and it’s all at the touch of a button.

There are a number of positive and negative bi-products of Twitter that need to be considered when assessing its impact on journalism.

The two traditional phases of the news cycle are now void. In the past, journalists would act as gatekeepers, where a story would be written and published before the public then had chance to read it and reply via an opinion or comment piece. As a result of Twitter, users have to ability to comment on articles immediately and actually communicate with the author.

It is this immediate nature of Twitter that has essentially ended the concept of ‘the scoop’ as we knew it. In the past, if a journalist broke a new headline than it would typically remain as a breaking story for at least 24 hours. Now however, when somebody breaks a news story it’s lucky to last two minutes before people are Tweeting similar headlines and writing their own account of events.

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This has the potential to be very dangerous, where “51% of PR professionals agreed that the reliability of news has decreased due to social media and [a] lack of fact-checking” (Kemsley, 2014). A recent example of exactly this came after the death of South Africa model Reeva Steenkamp. Just hours after the story broke on Twitter, there were a number of wild theories and facts being thrown around which were later proved to be completely false.

Perhaps the silver lining on this cloud is that journalists on Twitter have the power to rectify their errors and update their article as the facts become clearer.

Twitter has a huge appeal for journalists because it gives them access to the opinions and comments of people around world. By identifying what is ‘trending’, journalists can essentially give the people what they want by writing articles about hot topics.

Similar to this, the ‘Retweet’ and ‘Share’ functions are crucial for online journalists. The more people that Share of Retweet their article, the greater their audience size, background and reach.

Knowing that having more ‘followers’ is the key to reaching a greater audience, the online identity and reputation of journalists has become more important than ever. Presenting a positive and successful image is an inherent human desire, and this is no different online.

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Presenting a desirable identity of one’s self has become a lot easier to manipulate and design, given the emergence of social networking sites. This is crucial for journalists, who traditionally need to have a positive reputation in order to secure major news stories and interviews with key witnesses. With so many different news sites online, it becomes all the more important for journalists to project a strong, trustworthy and professional image. Intrinsically connected to this, journalists need to be able to produce a well-researched, in depth article, one that users can justify paying a digital subscription for. In an age where citizen journalists have become more and more prominent, the battle to be considered a legitimate and major news site is a tough one.

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Likewise for citizen journalists, gaining the trust of the public can often be an issue in itself, particularly when you’re just starting out. Unsurprisingly, most experts agree that to be considered a legitimate news site the author is best served to follow the MEAA Code of Ethics. By promoting the values of honesty, independence, fairness and respect, will subsequently allow you to produce fair and professional news article.

Twitter has changed the media industry indefinitely and as a result journalism and its key structures have evolved. The media industry is a dynamic environment that is constantly adapting and changing to keep up with the new technologies it has become so reliant on.

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