Twitter has become the place where I get almost all my news. It gets delivered to you fast and the format of the platform allows you be constantly updated. Here is where a shift is occurring regarding how journalism is both crafted and distributed to the public. Print journalism is dying and more news outlets are making their stories digitalized and shorter to address a more on-the-go society. While there are certainly plenty of perks to this quick information, there are also setbacks regarding credibility and the quality of reporting.
In a journal article called, “Normalizing Twitter: Journalism Practice in an Emerging Communication Space,” they analyzed over 22,000 tweets from the top 500 followed journalists and found a new open dialogue starting to emerge. They found that on Twitter journalists more freely express their opinions, which contest the journalistic norm of objectivity. While also rebelling against some of the typical practices of hard journalism, they’ve also adopted some norms that are specific to these forms of microblogging. For instance, journalists using Twitter are more likely to provide accountability and transparency regarding how they conduct their work.
Where Twitter has truly revolutionized the journalism world is how it now interacts with user-generated content. Journalists within this top 500 would often share the thoughts and engage in conversation with civilian accounts. This dialogue that Twitter creates gives these consumers of the news a chance to deepen their understanding of events with this interaction. This open communication helps citizens be more involved, while giving journalists an idea for what type of audience they’re are writing, or tweeting for.
Because of this limitless amount of content found on Twitter, journalists are also beginning to relinquish their roles as gatekeepers. No longer are they the all-powerful deciders of what is and isn’t news, handing that responsibility over to the people. In fact, Twitter even offers the space for citizens to become journalists themselves. All that is really needed to break a story in this age is an iPhone. We particularly saw citizens making it their duty to inform the public during the Ferguson protests.
Users were updated on the developing situations instantaneously and because these were just regular people they were more approachable for conversations. With citizens dictating how this story unfolded, users were able to get a better sense of the human and emotional impact of the situation. Thousands of voices were able to add their experiences or opinions and really showed the effect these events had on a community as a whole.
However, the emotional side of a story that Twitter presents can have negative repercussions. A recent article from The New Republic provided an example of this. A controversy was created when Ester Bloom, associate editor of The Billfold, wrote a piece about Daily Show correspondent Jessica Williams’s thoughts that she wasn’t qualified to take over for Jon Stewart. Basically, people claimed that Bloom was projecting her own opinions onto Williams unfairly.
This is the problem that this new journalism is facing. Since speed to publish is becoming more the primary focus, research and factchecking are starting to suffer. Rather than interviewing Williams about her actual thoughts about this issue, Bloom made an argument based on what she imagined someone was thinking. The author of this The New Republic article, Phoebe Maltz Bovy, refers to this phenomenon as “feelings journalism.” At the same time, the “viral shaming” of Bloom that followed also did not contribute to an open and accepting sharing of ideas. The backlash distracted from the issues and hid those valuable conversations that usually exist on Twitter regarding these types of topics.
I think that Twitter has a lot of potential to take us into a new wave of journalism that is fast and interactive. However, there are still some qualities of old fashioned news that we must keep like accurate and fair reporting.
Lasorsa, D.L., Lewis, S.C., & Holton, A. (2012). Normalizing Twitter: Journalism Practice in an Emerging Communication Space. Journalism Studies, 13(1), 19-36.
Bovy, Phoebe Maltz. “The Rise of Feelings Journalism.” The New Republic. 19 Feb. 2015. Web. 19 Feb. 2015.