The Role of Twitter in Reporting and Making News

Twitter has emerged as another extremely popular form of new media . As we were reminded yet again during our recent trip to USA Today, Twitter is becoming an increasingly accepted companion to traditional journalism and is used by many traditional reporters as another effective method of getting information out to their audience.

As recently as the spring, Twitter was a mostly unknown entity among reporters and the general public, but now it seems like nearly every newsperson has a Twitter account to file quick updates and provide follower with tidbits of information as they come up. In the press box at Terp football games, it has become something of a competition to see which reporter can tweet information the fastest.

Another interesting Twitter-related development is when newsmakers tweet something and the tweets themselves become the news. Cincinnati Bengals running back Larry Johnson was recently waived by the Kansas City Chiefs for using a homophobic slur on his Twitter account. Johnson had also used Twitter to criticize his former team and specifically its head coach.

Closer to home, our classmate Eric Detweiler referenced tweets made by Terp basketball player Dino Gregory in a recent story in The Diamondback about Gregory's eventual return from a suspension. Gregory had not been made available to speak with the media, but Detweiler used Gregory's Twitter account to convey Gregory's comment on the situation.

What does everybody think about Twitter in the media? Should reporters use Twitter to report information, or is that unprofessional? Should things that prominent people tweet become fair game for news? Should reporters use relevant tweets as comments on important issues when the source is not available for more traditional comment?


Jenna Shulman said...

It is quite interesting to see a post about Twitter in the news. It was an eye opening experience to hear from reporters at USA Today and their frequent use of Twitter to get the news out. It actually scares me as a journalism major to see Twitter on the rise. Are newspapers and even televised news even going to be needed anymore? If reporters or even average bystanders can just tweet from their phones what is going on in the world than why would people need to wait until 5:00 p.m. to find out?

I think Twitter has played a big role in the media and celebrities, athletes, etc. have become involved in it more and more as time has progressed. They feel free to talk about whatever they want, but they are WELL aware it is out to the public. Because of this, their statements are a public forum. Reporters have every right to use their tweets in the media because it is public information. I think the whole point of twitter is to avoid going through the media. Clearly if prominent people are expressing their thoughts and issues through twitter, they are looking for feedback. If they did not want people to read it and analyze it, they wouldn't have wrote it. This makes it easy for them to express their opinions without going through the press.

I do think that reporters should try to find a traditional comment first before using Twitter, but if a Twitter comment is all that they have then why not use it? It is definitely fair game. In fact, a twitter comment may even be better because it really shows the prominent person's TRUE thoughts and personality rather than a professional, boring, and hackneyed quote. If it's tweeted, it's public information and if it's public information, it's fair game.

modderno said...

That was a really creative move on Eric's part. I'm surprised college teams haven't started banning the use of Twitter for student athletes. Since part of their responsiblity is representing the school, I feel like this could eventually cause some real problems.


You do a good job of pointing out that Twitter is both a great tool and a source of potential problems for both newsmakers and news reporters.

And to answer your questions, I think it has emerged as a viable option for reporters to glean information straight from newsmakers because it seems that, more often than not, these newsmakers are recognizing it as a way to break their own news.

It provides newsmakers with a sense of control over the media, but if they aren't careful, they can also hurt their image or public standing.

As you saw with the example from my article, reporters can use a Tweet as a viable alternative when an interview isn't practical or possible. The business is about helping tell people the whole story, and sometimes this is the best option.

On the other hand, the new en vogue trend is for athletes or other celebrities to break their own news, thus eliminating perceived media spin, and this phenomenon can lessen the importance of journalists to society.

It's still a relatively new tool, but understanding how to use Twitter effectively can clearly provide journalists a leg-up when tackling a specific beat.