As I have stated a few posts ago, boxothoughts is now on twitter, however I have begun to twitter with a bit of skepticism and view it as a bit childish in many instances. Nevertheless I have decided to use it, so I can become fluent in social networking or at least become familiar with it, a knowledge that will no doubt prove to be an asset on the broader media landscape, if present indicators prove accurate.
Many journalists have used it as a way to converse with fans, get sources, and release news. But with legions of consumers not only copiously adding to and reading their twitters, but following others. How does an industry regulate something so accessible and widely used as well as unregulated? Historically that is always a conundrum, the impact new technologies and products can have on traditional institutions, as well as how those products and advances in technology will be used.
Twitter is a dazzling social networking technology that allows you to stay in touch, via brief updates known as tweets, with a vast number of friends, acquaintances and interested strangers as you go through your day. Related software enables you to interact with even broader arrays of people you seek out through particular words in their tweets that suggest they know something you’re interested in.
It’s easy to see why journalists, who depend on just such networks of informants, find Twitter appealing.
Smarter news organizations encourage this. But it comes at a price. Nurturing these online networks obliges journalists to exchange messages with fans and followers, so the potential is there for staffers to spout off, spill secrets, give away their journalism.
So like parents with marriageable offspring, news bosses are both pushing forward and pulling back, fearful of looking out of date by reminding their eager staff about the danger of going too far.
In recent months some of the country’s prestige press — including The Washington Post, New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal — have issued staff guidelines. They urge ”common sense:” Avoid talking about things you’re covering unless an editor approves. Don’t come across as opinionated. Don’t get into what “verbal fisticuffs with rivals or critics.”
As The Post put its bottom-line concerns, ”In general, we expect that the journalism our reporters produce will be published through The Washington Post, in print or digitally,” and not via blogs or tweets.
Good luck there. Can you have journalists texting messages independently on topical concerns with thousands of people using a medium that’s easily shared with millions more and still retain exclusivity? Not only has that horse left the barn, but the barn is burning down. Twitter will be embraced as no less indispensable to reporters than their phones, but it does carry risk — and not the loss of control that news bosses worry about but the illusion of connectedness.
On a somewhat more trivial, but nevertheless important point style is also affected. Twitter limits the number of alphabetical and numerical characters that can be used in a single “twit”. This once again further pushes us away from longer and more detailed accounts and encourages the sound byte culture in which unless accounts of events or arguments are made in a short fashion, the public begins to loose attention.