It seems lately that when somewhere in the world goes to hell in a hand basket everyone starts lining up on either side of the fence as to whether or not Twitter is a valid news source. Hell some are even calling it Twitter journalism, but if that is the case then journalism is really in a sorry state.
As convincing an argument as Mathew Ingram wrote late yesterday about how it is a source of journalism, I think there is an important ingredient missing from his point. Which is that unsubstantiated or wrong news fill travel faster and wider than any news which corrects those first reports. By the very nature of Twitter and how one’s friend network is setup it almost guarantees that while you may first hear the wrong news you won’t necessarily hear the corrected version because it might be coming from someone who isn’t a part of your network.
Both Svetlana Gladkova from Prof.com and Mathew do rightly point out that being a mainstream news service doesn’t guarantee that they won’t make errors as well. I would suggest thought that their ability to get the corrected information out to the same people who who heard the incorrect version is much more likely. Just because they are your friends or a part of your social network doesn’t imply that they won’t pass along misleading or incorrect information and the idea that that what they are sending your way is journalism is drop dead wrong.
At best Twitter is an excellent way to get leads for news or information that you then follow up via other means; at worst the network is nothing more than a global hen party. The idea that a 140 characters; which has passed through so many hands by the time it actually reaches you, is even remotely similar to a live feed from any journalist on the ground; even with the mistakes they might make, is head shaking.
The other argument that the Twitter proponents like to use; and we see it all the time, is that the news will hit Twitter before the mainstream journalists write; or speak, a single word. So what? In this day and age and the speed by which information traverses the world does five minutes, ten minutes or even twenty minutes for that matter really make that much of a difference? Do we really need to be plugged in that badly?
Twitter might be a fun way to waste some time but it is not the next frontier of journalism; or at least I sure as hell hope it isn’t.