Kathy English sees definite journalistic strengths in Twitter, but we’ll have to wait for her followup column next Saturday to hear about her concerns.
A study released last week concluded that journalists who cover Canadian politics are using Twitter far more extensively and to better advantage than politicians. The study, by Tamara Small, an assistant professor at Mount Allison University, analyzed political messaging on Twitter and also found that Twitter is spreading the influence of political reporting and analysis in traditional media.
It would be an overstatement to suggest that all journalists have taken to Twitter. The Star’s website links to only about 30 journalists who routinely tweet for this news organization (though other Star journalists use Twitter for personal use). Within any gathering of journalists, it’s still not unusual to hear veteran journalists state that they “don’t Twitter” and to condescendingly question what can be communicated in a 140-character tweet.
Given that Twitter is hardly novel these days, that view is beginning to sound dated. Isn’t it time we put this debate to rest and recognize that Twitter and other tools of new media can actually enhance our journalism?
English talked a fair bit about Ottawa-based Star reporter Joanna Smith:
In covering the H1N1 “pandemic” last fall, Smith used Twitter to connect with readers and sources. “I would often get questions and suggestions from readers who had an interesting perspective on the issue. A mother whose child is sick is going to have something different to say than an epidemiologist at a research hospital, and without Twitter I might not have ever known about it.”
Smith now connects directly — and transparently — with sources on Twitter: “Just this morning I received direct feedback from a cabinet minister I had mentioned in a tweet and was able to respond to it just as directly,” she told me.
I like Twitter a lot, and it’s been a valuable communications tool for me. But if I have one caution to offer, it’s that reporting is an active pursuit, not a passive one.
If you set up shop on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or wherever and just expect the big stories to come rolling into your lap, then your expectations need managing.