Twitter: The Unexpected Tool

You don’t have to go very far to check what’s happening in the world these days, take out your smartphone pick your poison, whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr or any other of the countless sites that allow for the circulation of information.

For many people sitting down and watching the news or reading the newspaper is a thing of the past. By the time stories are researched, written, shot and aired they are old news, why wait when you can simply see what’s trending on Twitter or check your favourite blog who posts stories you know you’re going to be interested in. Citizen journalism has taken off and in a big way, we no longer rely on television, radio and newspapers to bring us the news because we’re getting it elsewhere, from social media.

For many the name Twitter can bring to mind things such as the 140-character limit or people briefly describing their food and/or feelings about food, however this microform of citizen journalism has been the tool for discovering and breaking many news stories. Because Twitter is so simple to use, quick and available almost everywhere it became a prime platform for people to talk quickly about an event that was currently unfolding/had just happened. We see this time and time again with natural disasters, terrorist attacks and countless other significant events.

For many Twitter becomes a starting point in the research for a story, however how do you know when Twitter can be trusted, they are after all just random people from around the world. This is when “bridges made of pebbles” comes into play, “the sum total of those tweets added up to something truly substantive, like a suspension bridge made of pebbles” (Johnson 2009). This means that while you can’t always trust an individual tweet (you can’t make a bridge out of one pebble), you can put together multiple tweets on the same event in order to get a reliable account of what happened.

Now journalists are able to get a firsthand account of the event without actually having to be there and because tweets are not private, citizen journalists have access to the same information as the ‘professionals’, therefore allowing their work to potentially be as informational and accurate as those who work for big newspapers.

These changes have allowed people to contribute to the news in multiple ways, whether it is tweeting and contributing to the “bridges made of pebbles” or writing a blog and becoming part of the citizen journalism community. Once again, social media has changed the way in which we interact with each other as well as inventing an entirely new news source.

 

Johnson, S. 2009. How Twitter Will Change the Way We Live. Time, (online) 05/06/2009 available at: https://moodle.uowplatform.edu.au/pluginfile.php/94787/mod_resource/content/1/Johnson%20-%20How%20twitter%20will%20change.pdf (accessed: 19/09/2013)

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