Digital Journalism Students Reflect On Twitter

The assignment (COM466):

Students will use Twitter as a news gathering, monitoring tool throughout the quarter. Includes final 600-800 word essay on Twitter experience. What did you learn? What do you think of the future of Twitter as a tool for journalists? For citizens? For news organizations? Give evidence for your opinion. Post to your course blog.

Maybe it was Twitter moving to mainstream consciousness (Oprah, Ashton, CNN). Maybe it was my enthusiasm for the new(ish) technology. Whatever the reason, my Spring Quarter journalism students have become enthusiastic about Twitter and have specific reasons why journalists should share their endorsement.

Several students commented on the differences between Facebook and Twitter, specifically that uni-directional “follow” we can do Twitter but not on Facebook. Michelle believes that this feature (the follow) is a benefit for journalists and journalism.

Adam cites the real-world example of Mumbai when he argues that journalists should be actively participating on Twitter. One key role for journalists, he asserts: determine trustworthiness (of individuals, Tweets). Andrew believes that Twitter is creating a “community newsroom” … and Jeff agrees, although he believes the newsroom is limited today because of all the people who aren’t yet on Twitter. Scott points out that Twitter is a tool for rapid mobilization as well as live reporting:

Since this communication occurs in real time, it can be an incredibly efficient way to connect people through new thoughts, ideas and innovations.  The immediacy of this conversation is great way to bring instant attention to a developing issue.  I’m interested to see how Twitter and the idea of real-time networks of information develop in the coming years.

And Sarah speaks to the disintermediation afforded to digital technologies:

One blogger writes that “… Twitter democratizes the sharing of ideas.  There are no inferred hierarchies… the focus is content and point of view, not position or role,” (Neil, 2008).  This is a great quote illustrating the fact that news consumers no longer are subjected by specific sources like CNN or FOX.  Twitter allows different opinions that offer a dialogue with people on our level who are just as interested in being well-informed as you.

Many students were skeptical of Twitter. Ryan, for example, initially thought Twitter was a joke:

It took me a while to wrap my head around why people would be so “glued” to Twitter.  I started to understand its utility when one of my professors, Kathy Gill, said: “it’s like broadcasting a text message.”  If I wanted to quickly update a friend about something, I wouldn’t send them an e-mail – I’d send them a text message.  The same idea applies to Twitter and micro-blogging – if you want to quickly broadcast something it’s better said in short message environment than on a blog or traditional website.

And Paul vividly describes the lifecycle of a Twitter convert. He skips the “what I had for dinner” stage (because I coached the students past this point) but his thoughtful discussion of learning to drink from a firehose (your full Twitter feed) is illustrative for any newbie. Moreover, he also helps us see how Tweets differ from both IM and email.

It’s been a fun 10 weeks. Now we’ll see how many of them continue to Tweet once class is behind them!

Here are those posts:

  1. Adam – The emerging world of Twitter and what it means for journalists
  2. Andrew – Twitter experience assessment
  3. Jeff – The New York Twitter? Yes and No
  4. Michelle – My Twitter Experience: Transition to A More Authentic User
  5. Paul – Why I’m addicted to Twitter
  6. Ryan – Twitter Essay
  7. Sarah – Twitter Experience
  8. Scott – Thoughts On Twitter
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