Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Reinventing the News: Twitter

In our ADD generation, it seems that instantaneous blog posts aren't enough. Instead, posts need to be shorter, quicker and able to record play-by-play news. Enter Twitter, a social media network that limits people's entries to 140 characters and allows constant updating.

Readers of Twitter mainly follow people, with posts much like Facebook's status updates, rather than news organizations. I find in many ways Twitter serves to validate meaningless minutiae about poster's everyday life: sometimes funny, occasionally candid, but mostly trivial. However, more news outlets are jumping on the 2-year-old technology as a way to reach more people, though not all of them are understanding Twitter's strengths and weaknesses. The BBC, for example, uses Twitter only as a promotional tool for publicizing any new article on their site. At this moment, it's news people, not news organizations, using Twitter the best.

Two such individuals are Andy Carvin and Jim Long. Carvin utilizes Twitter's strength of a way to report on minute-by-minute developments by "tweeting" through tech news conferences and political campaign events. As a new media reporter for National Public Radio, Twitter is just one of the many ways Carvin is working with online tools to reinvent journalism. Long, a cameraman for NBC's Washington Bureau, chronicles the details of shooting interesting news stories for TV. His account of the challenges and interesting places he's in puts TV news packages in a totally different light. Both Carvin and Long come from non-print news outlets, and perhaps its the limit of word count that has lended itself so well to these reporters.

The online persona Max Gladwell is not a person at all but rather a collective of posters concentrating on social media and green living. But with Twitter not allowing much room for a personal voice in one's writing, the tweets read as if from one person. MG highlights news articles with a phrase and a link and lets the reader come to their own conclusion.

What I like about these sites is they interact with their followed Twitters and readers. They link to sites and point out information they find relevant and interesting, offering at times concise analysis if any at all. But while Twitter may be perfect for covering events, I don't think it offers any new technology that a simple blog couldn't do. It's the community around Twitter that makes the site so appealing.

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