Given that the raid on Osama Bin Laden was Tweeted as it happened it would be tempting to say that newspapers are dead. Had the announcement from President Obama happened any later perhaps the headlines for the next day would have missed the announcement completely. I could almost see the “Dewey Defeats Truman” moment happening all over again. Twitter supporters will further fuel for the Twitter fire by pointing out that the information was first leaked via Twitter.
The problem with saying that Twitter has replaced traditional media is that it overlooks a few critical factors. One factor is that the Twitter-sphere makes mistakes. Things that are not true can grow quickly – such as when Rep. Giffords was reported dead. You may point out that news organizations also get stories incorrect, and you would be right, but a story published online can be updated and corrected so that when people go there they see the more up to date information. No such function exists for Tweets.
Additionally, we have to make sure that we are differentiating between the spread of a news item and the creation of that news item. A story may get legs on Twitter but the story may not have broken by Twitter. Even when no link is provided back to the original article many news related Tweets are probably inspired by some traditional media content.
Finally, there are some straight up problems with Twitter as a news source. When there are 3,000 tweets per second flowing in on a topic I would assert that gaining useful information is quite difficult. For instance if I told you that Osama Bin Laden was killed and that you had 5 minutes to get me details on it using only Twitter you would be helpless. There is no organization to the content. It is Finnegan’s Wake, present day.
In a similar vein, Twitter does not provide a forum to go into any detail on a topic. Sure, there are many items in which 140 characters will be more than enough, but there are also a large number of stories that need a bit more than that – say a paragraph – or even a lot more than that – a full article detailing the timeline of the raid.
No, Twitter will never kill real journalism. It will aid in the sharing of articles, but that just helps traditional news outlets. Sure, the face of news will change. The tools of the trade will change. The way news is distributed will change. Twitter is just a tool and at the end of the day I think people find the old adage holds true and one does well to heed it: Knowledge is power. People will keep reading past 140.
Has Twitter killed traditional news for you?
This has been a Thought From The Cake Scraps.