Twitter Isn’t Journalism, Or Is It? Perhaps It’s the Wrong Question to Ask

I was asked to enter the Bloomberg BusinessWeek Debate Room to make the case “for” Twitter as a platform for journalism – at least that’s how I interpreted it. On the other side, ScribbleLive CEO Michael De Monte debates why it is “for the birds.”

But before we get too far down the path, let’s frame the discussion. The original debate topic posed by BusinessWeek, “Twitter Isn’t Journalism, Or Is It?” is a bit misleading  and honestly, I think it’s the wrong question to ask.

In his reaction to the question as posed, Jeff Jarvis shed light on its fallibility through a literal interpretation, “More like an undebate. Typing: journalism or not?”

Dan Patterson of ABC News Radio introduced helpful frames of reference in his Tweet, “It’s the wrong question. Twitter is a tool, the web is a medium, and journalism is an action.”

Perhaps Jarvis’s response is an example of what’s really at the heart of the debate, context. BusinessWeek’s headline as proposed is constraining. It implies Twitter as a platform is or isn’t journalism, which isn’t the intention, at least not in how it was presented to me. The bigger discussion is rooted in the action of Tweeting and whether or not for example, protected by the same rights as other media.

As Alex Howard signals, “There is a debate, whether you acknowledge it or not: shield laws now protect journalists, not acts of journalism.”

Perhaps, for the sake of this discussion, the question would be better asked this way, “Can Tweets represent acts of journalism?

When we look at the question in this light, the original intention for the course of conversation is righted.

In addressing the spirit of the debate, GigaOm’s Mathew Ingram steers the discussion back on course with his response, “the answer is being provided by @acarvin and @NickKristof.”

Seeing the question in a new light, we need not look any further than NPR’s Andy Carvin for an answer. From the front lines in Bahrain, Carvin  Tweeted, “Later; too busy tweeting reports from Bahrain now.”

Twitter is a platform. And if journalism is an action, can Tweets represent acts of journalism?”

There are valid points on both sides of the discussion, but we learn a great deal more when we open it up to more voices. Please join us…share your thoughts.

Debate Topic: Tweets can recite facts, but Twitter doesn’t qualify as a journalistic vehicle. Pro or con?

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Brian Solis is a digital analyst, anthropologist, and also a futurist. In his work at Altimeter Group, Solis studies the effects of disruptive technology on business and society. He is an avid keynote speaker and award-winning author who is globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders in digital transformation.

His most recent book, What's the Future of Business: Changing the Way Businesses Create Experiences (WTF), explores the landscape of connected consumerism and how business and customer relationships unfold in four distinct moments of truth. His previous book, The End of Business as Usual, explores the emergence of Generation-C, a new generation of customers and employees and how businesses must adapt to reach them. In 2009, Solis released Engage, which is regarded as the industry reference guide for businesses to market, sell and service in the social web.

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