Twitter and Journalism in early 2008

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Journalism consists of multiple activities, from the long form to spot news. These may require different tool sets, authoring styles, talents, etc. I want to address the journalism news function of reporting breaking news, from a fire to a press conference, to any live event.

Key to reporting live events, is time. How immediate can the reporting be? Live video is an obvious way to cover live events. But as research on media literacy, perception, and thinking suggest, images enter our nervous system pass through movement center and the limpic brain, center of emotional and memory. We don’t think consciously about images unless we verbalize or write about them.

Bill Moyers’, 1989 program, The Public Mind, features Neil Postman explaining the impossibility of viewing a sweet McDonald’s ad with a dad and little girl and answering the question, “Is it true?” It is emotionally evocative. It is, or isn’t esthetically pleasing. But we “feel” the ad, but there is no way to assess its truth value. It is interesting to note that a common

So, watching a remote event live probably is *not* news. Adding a reporter who talks about what we are seeing adds some analytic quality to the emotional experience of viewing, depending on the quality of the remark, because it makes you consider the image in the thinking part of the brain.

A reporter supplying us with a live audio or text feed — information we must process in the thinking brain — is certainly providing news in real time.

At a live event, then, if a reporter could send nearly immediate text or audio feeds to an audience, that would be arguably as effective or even more effective than a live video news report. Using twitter.com, a computer-mobile phone social networking tool, a reporter can be on the scene and reporting the news. Jay Meattle caught an instance of this in his blog in 2007, where Robert Scoble twittered with friends to solicit questions to ask at a press conference (see image below)

Scoble has been using Twitter for several years, and has continued to use it and discuss it as a reporting tool.

Imagine if we were at a news event, like, say, a fire. I could quickly gather people’s impressions. Give my own. Take some pictures. And then stitch together a blog page with all of the important info.

If you have a video ready phone you can even upload video (my Nokia N95 does that, sorry, iPhones don’t yet do video).

His recent work with a high-end mobile phone and QIK.com, a tool that permits live video broadcast from a cellphone at the same time viewers can send txt message questions or comments to the video shooter should be required viewing by all journalism educators.

Jeff Jarvis, part of Reuters Mobile Journalism effort, used a Nokia high-end phone at Davos, and blogged about its uses. His spot video interviews are interesting, and the metavideo he got of Scoble using Qik.com is fascinating, though it might be approaching overkill.

Time and attention are currency in our digital, information age. We, as in everyone in society, need information at our fingertips, as we reach out for it, not when it is convenient for someone else to deliver it. For live events, press conferences, sports, weather, traffic, games, and short entertainment, news isn’t going to wait for reporters to publish it anywhere but online, via mobile, on whatever mid-size device, e-reader, or Internet appliance is at hand.

As a journalism student, if you aren’t paying attention to this and teaching yourself to use the tools you can afford (twitter is free) how will you compete in a marketplace where you must be your own brand? If you are journalism educator, you owe it students to expose them to the use of these tools and discussions of how to use them to work on their self-branding. If you are pro, and you aren’t working with this stuff, I hope your place of business is still solvent enough to offer you the early-buyout. If you think this is goofy, take a look at Chris Anderson’s story on *free* in Wired.

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