On Nov. 28, ABCnews.com published a story by Ki Mae Huessner called Social Media a Lifeline, Also a Threat? about the role of Twitter and other social media in the coverage of, and public discourse about, last week’s terrorist attacks in Mumbai.
Huessner interviewed me for this story because I’ve beenblogging about it on Contentious.com and on E-Media Tidbits. She chose to include a few highly edited and interpreted quotes from me that I think grossly misrepresent my own views and the character of our conversation.
Yeah, being a journalist, I know that no one is ever completely happy with their quotes. I’ve been misquoted plenty in the past, and normally I just roll with it. But this particular case is an especially teachable moment for my journalist colleagues in mainstream media about understanding and covering the role of social media in today’s media landscape.
Today’s a pretty busy day for me, but I didn’t want to let this go unsaid any longer. So I made a little Seesmic video response to this story. Here I am speaking strictly for myself — not on behalf of any of my clients or colleagues. Yes, I am very emphatic here and somewhat critical. Please understand that my frustration is borne of seeing this particular problem over and over again.
“Journalism requires that stories been constructed, facts be tied together, narratives presented, and context created. In short, journalism is the big picture.
“No one would argue that you can get the pig picture in 140 characters. But what about aggregate tweets? One person over a long time, or many people over a large subject?
“Is Twitter a viable, standalone medium for journalism?”
I think this quesion misses the mark regarding the nature of journalism. It confuses the package with the process. That’s understandable, because in the history of mainstream news, journalists and news organizations have often taken a “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” approach to revealing their own processes. When all the public sees is the product, it’s easy to assume that’s all there is to journalism.
Here’s the comment I left on his post:
Hmmmmâ€¦. I do journalism, and I know a lot of journalists, and Iâ€™ve seen what Twitter can do. It seems to me that any medium â€” from Twitter to broadcast news to smoke signals â€” has potential journalistic uses.
Journalism is a process, not just a product. For many professional journalists and other people who commit acts of journalism, Twitter is already an important part of their journalistic process (i.e., connecting with communities and sources, and gathering information). And it can also be part of the product (i.e., live coverage of events or breaking news, or updates to ongoing stories or issues)
So yes, Twitter CAN be a real news platform. As well as lots of other things. Just like a newspaper can be the Washington Post, the National Enquirer, or a free shopperâ€™s guide. It all depends on what you choose to make of it.
And also: These days, almost no news medium is â€œstandalone.â€ Every news org has a web presence, and many have a presence in social media, and also in embeddable media.
…That’s my take. What’s yours? Please comment below — or send a Twitter reply to @agahran
More and more people are covering live events and breaking news via Twitter — and usually there are several Twitter users covering the same event. Hashtags are a handy tool for pulling together such disparate coverage.
A hashtag is just a short character string preceded by a hash sign (#). This effectively tags your tweets â€” allowing people to easily find and aggregate tweets related to the event being covered.
“Iâ€™ve used hashtags a bunch, but never started one. If, by some chance, there are two events (or whatever) using the same hashtag, does everyone searching just see both until one changes, or is there some sort of registration or vetting process?”
I do a lot of live event coverage via Twitter, and I also follow a lot of events (especially conferences) via Twitter. One thing I’ve learned: It helps your Twitter audience immensely if, before the event (or at the start) the people tweeting it develop a consensus on the hashtag for the event.
That’s what Horn Group VP Susan Etlinger did earlier, for the PR/Blogger panel her company is hosting tonight. She’s one of several Twitter users who helped launch this hashtag simply by adopting and promoting it:
Susan Etlinger helps launch a hashtag by using it.
And here’s the fruit that this kind of coordination can bear: Check out the #PRblog hashtag
…So: what’s a hashtag, and why is this so important?…
Journalists typically recoil at the thought of writing anything that resembles marketing copy — or even from thinking of news as a product. But we’re already long past the age when an established news brand was all you needed to determine the relevance and quality of news. If journalists truly believe the quality of their coverage is so great, and if their product is news, then why not market it directly?
What if you could read the label on news stories, to gauge quality and relevance? (Source: Keetsa, via Flickr, CC license)
I’m not talking about marketing news brands. I’m talking about marketing the merits of each story, right in the story.
Erin Kissane offers sage advice for writing product pages that I suspect could, with a twist, also make it easier for people (and search engines, and the semantic web) to grasp the value of quality news:
“Most product pages need to answer these questions:
Who is the product for?
What is the product?
What does the product do for its target user?
Why is the product better than the available alternatives?
“Stupidly simple, right? But the lack of answers to these questions is what leads to thousands upon thousands of wasted hours (and more money than I want to think about) spent writing, serving, and reading meaningless dreck that doesn’t inform users, promote products, or help anyone.”
Now: What if news stories included similar context? At least through some sort of categorization or tagging on the back-end. That could enhance relevance in search results, semantic web applications, or site features like optional pop-up boxes or an iGoogle-like personalized news interface.
The Dallas Morning News Tech Blog speculates on the next step in holographic election coverage...
Someone might want to tell CNN: TV is a two-dimensional medium. Holograms don’t work there — not even in high-definition. That’s even more true for holograms that aren’t really holograms.
On election night, CNN debuted a new type of eye candy into its coverage: three-dimensional video interviews with reporter Jessica Yellin and rapper Will.I.Am, both speaking from Chicago. As the TV camera moved around the studio, the angle of the projected image changed, creating the illusion of an in-studio 3D projection.
Here’s what it looked like (Note: CNN’s embedded video just went flaky, but that article on CNN contains a playable version.)
One of the things I’ve liked about Boulder’s Daily Camera is that on their site they run an unfiltered Letters to the Editor blog. Unlike the letters that get published in the print edition, every letter the Camera receives gets posted to this blog — where (unlike comments left on Camera articles) they can be found via the site’s search engine.
On Halloween, as I wrote earlier, I went down to Boulder, CO’s Pearl St. pedestrian mall to check out the costumes — which are always spectacular — and to see the annual Naked Pumpkin Run. (Note: that link above goes to my blog post which includes a video containing nudity.) This loosely organized event has a lot of local fans.
The Naked Pumpkin Run is nothing more than that — sometime around 9-10 pm on Halloween, a bunch of people get naked, put jack-o-lanterns on their heads, and run en masse down the Pearl St. Mall. It’s not sexual, violent, dangerous, or threatening. It’s just silly. It’s unique. It’s fun. It’s exuberant. It’s positive and life-affirming.
And: It’s illegal.
Unlike in previous years, the Boulder police were out in force for this event, where they ticketed several runners for indecent exposure. Consequently, several fun-loving local folks may end up suffering life-altering public stigma as registered sex offenders.
The Colorado Daily posted this video of the event, including some footage of the busts:
Need some irony? All this happened less than 24 hours after two remarkably violent assaults, which occurred just a half-mile from the scene of the Naked Pumpkin Run busts.