The Bird is the Word?

Post preface: For the next few months, Books, Birdies, and Earl Grey will be doubling as a “learning blog” for one of my media classes. Most of my blogs will stick to book discussion, but may be more scholarly in nature.

I recently had to do a group project where we discussed a current event or issue related to the media. My group decided to discuss how Twitter is not only becoming an increasingly popular news source for adults 18-29 (Kerr, 2013; “Why,” 2013), but also how more mainstream news sources (Like CNN, USA Today, and FOX news) are starting to use Twitter as a starting point for finding breaking news stories.

As this video from the Wall Street Journal shows. This is exactly what Twitter wants to accomplish–especially among young, educated, higher income people.

My group compared journalists using Twitter to get breaking news to college students using Wikipedia to start their research. One thing we found, however, was that college students never cite Wikipedia (or even admit to using it) but mainstream news sources are not afraid to claim they got their information from Twitter. While my group saw this as a problem, we were somewhat surprised to discover that not many of our classmates did. Many of them considered news sources smart to use Twitter this way because it could lead to faster and (sometimes) more reliable news because live tweets of an event could be considered eye witness accounts, as was the case with the Boston Marathon Bombings.

I was also taken aback by the demographics of people who get the majority of their news from Twitter. I had always assumed that higher income, educated people would get their news from more reputable sources (like actual newspapers or various news channels). When I discovered that this was not the case, I was surprised.This made me ask the question: Are news sources increasingly using Twitter as a starting point because more young people are looking to Twitter for news, or are young people looking to Twitter for news because that is where news sources are getting their information?

While this question cannot be answered without research and analysis, this group project certainly introduced me to the more productive ways Twitter is being used. I don’t have a Twitter, but this issue definitely made me consider getting one.

Sources:

Kerr, D. (2013). “Twitter a News Source? Not So Much.” in CNet. Retrieved from: http://www.cnet.com/news/twitter-a-news-source-not-so-much/

“Why Twitter Wants to Be your News Source,” in Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SliQCwBzGNc 

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2 thoughts on “The Bird is the Word?

  1. Whenever I hear discussions of Twitter as a news source, I always get the impression that people confound the medium of delivery with the source of the information. For me, Twitter is not a news source, even though I receive news from people and organizations that use Twitter. The source remains Slate, or the New Yorker, as I don’t follow individuals for their news potential, unless they’re actual journalists who are trained to cover and convey the news.

    If anything, I abide by the Breaking News Consumer’s Handbook (http://www.onthemedia.org/story/breaking-news-consumers-handbook-pdf/). Information gathering is a serious endeavor, and as an information consumer, I take it seriously. Twitter is a convenient delivery system, but it will never be a news source on its own.

  2. I agree! I think that’s why it is an issue when news coverage involves Twitter quotes, or the story originates on Twitter. This is semi-acceptable with entertainment news, I think, but if this becomes the primary way major news organizations verify their news–I’m going to be very worried.

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