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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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61 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Twitter Isn’t Journalism, Or Is It? Perhaps It’s the Wrong Question to Ask”

  1. Bensmith says:

    Twiiter definitely isn’t journalism. But I’m not sure anyone’s told journalists that

  2. A reader says:

    Twitter is just a continuous flow of news. If it’s journalism, that comes from the behavior of the reader. What makes the reader? Normally, it will seek its information according to its tastes, like his bread, in its preferred bakery. With Twitter, the reader is selecting ingredients (flour, salt, water) and works itself his bread. A new form of journalism? I cannot answer. I like the good bread, quite simply. A reader.

  3. Laured2 says:

    Who cares?

  4. Twitter is a platform – a tool. Journalists use pens, keyboards, voices to broadcast on platforms – newspapers, magazines, television, blogs, and Twitter.
    Just as my television can broadcast both news journalism and entertainment? So can Twitter.

    • briansolis says:

      Hi Lucretia, I’m trying to steer the conversation away from BusinessWeek’s framing and more toward what’s discussed at the beginning of the post…Can Tweets represent acts of journalism? And, as such are they protected by shield law?

      Know of any media law experts? Would love to hear from them!

    • Prt Inc Mail says:

      Hi Brian, regarding Tweets as acts of journalism protected by shield law, a great case study would be Octavia Nasr, formerly the Middle East expert at CNN, terminated for a tweet that was not ‘politically correct’ enough in their opinion.

  5. hardaway says:

    I think I will answer the question you asked. Why is the shield law appropriate? On Twitter, the tweeter is the source. What source is there to protect? Isn’t that what the shield law is all about? There. I’ve answered your question with three more questions. This is much more subtle than is it a platform and is it journalism

  6. I can’t help but notice at least one journalism “purist” reacting here. As a former journalist, I still read traditional journalism — both online and in print. But I also follow people on Twitter like Nicholas Kristof, both “to get to the journalism” (his work in the NYTimes when he posts links) and to see or participate in “the immediate conversation.” And “the conversation” is clearly a part of today’s journalism. You don’t have to wait for the presses to roll, you don’t always have to wait for the copy editors to weigh in, it’s about as immediate as you can get, and it’s the future. It is a tool and a platform. But I also think it’s a new form of journalism, a news feed, if handled well by bona fide journalists (another word that needs to be redefined). Just like bad journalists and good journalists, there are credible and non-credible sources on Twitter.

  7. Samuelxcharles says:

    It depends on how you define “journalism.” Webster says, “(a:) the collection and editing of news for presentation through the media, (b:) the public press.

    Twitter is a method of transferring information, just as paper or a radio or television broadcast are. If the content of a “tweet” contains “news” why would it not be journalism under Webster’s second definition? For some people, 140 characters meets — perhaps even exceeds — their need for depth in a news story.

  8. kate says:

    Best way to break news first and fast.

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