In order for an event to become news it must first achieve noticeability, so said newspaper commentator Walter Lippmann. Nearly a century later, Twitter created a fast lane to being seen and heard. Case-in-point for citizen journalism, news today can sourced by anyone, anytime, from anywhere in a smattering of characters. Punctuation, certain letters, and even spacing are optional. Evidently.
Beat tweets in real time
Both public and conversational, there is legitimate usage for professional reporters, nonetheless. “Every tweet represents an opportunity to demonstrate your voice and strengthen the relationship with your audience,” Tweeter tells journalists. Breaking news via a tweet taps into a hard earned established following. Using #hashtags gains access to other communities and increases “retweets” by 14%.
More top tips include issuing continuous live updates to keep followers informed on a story. Add photos and videos to make for a media rich experience. Invite followers to contribute to a feed, thus generating new levels of engagement. Do all this and you may have a chance at being the source to follow for the latest and best information. To be fair, there’s an ounce of popularity contest in the equation, too.
When the medium is more than the message
It’s not a full-on contradiction of Lippmann’s stance that there are limits to what can be witnessed by reporters, but the social media revolution (and Twitter in particular) offers new possibilities. There are about a billion registered Twitter users and 100 million login daily. The potential of digital is staggering and evolving at speeds never known before.
In 2013, the smartphone wasn’t even a response option as Gallup tried to figure out where Americans were getting their news. Survey participants could be satisfied by indicating the internet, but not specifying mobility. According to the Wall Street Journal, that same year 86% of time Twitter users spent on the social network took place on a mobile device. Today, nearly two-thirds of U.S. adults own a smartphone and more than half (55%) get news on their smartphone at least once a week.
Still, it’s unclear whether Twitter’s digital transformation of news accessibility can revive apathetic consumers whose keenness to be ‘in the know’ hasn’t known the same success as the medium itself.
Twitter hasn’t changed the rules, but it has changed the game
Still, there’s hope. When the Committee on Freedom of the Press convened in 1942, no one imagined a time when every technologically connected person on the planet would possess the potential to reach every other technologically connected person in a matter of seconds. That’s 3 billion people, by the way. Tweets could spark intellectual wildfire, if we wanted.
The Hutchins Commission built their arguments around media in mass communication which of course didn’t include television, much less the internet. Yet, despite this shift, their words still inspire:
“[It] is the whole point of a free press that ideas deserving a public hearing shall get a public hearing and that the decision of what ideas deserve that hearing shall rest in part with the public, not solely with the particular biases of editors and owners.”
If it’s obvious that technological progress has fostered inordinate opportunity for the news service industry, it’s still up to us, the public, to make the conversation meaningful.
Anderson, M. (2015, April1). “6 facts about Americans and their smartphones. Retrieved from http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/04/01/6-facts-about-americans-and-their-smartphones/
The Commission on Freedom of the Press. (1947). A Free and Responsible Press. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
Lippmann, W. (1922). Public Opinion. A full e-copy of the text is available from http://wps.pearsoncustom.com/wps/media/objects/2429/2487430/pdfs/lippmann.pdf
Rogers, T. (N.D.). “The Technology of Journalism Improves, But Young People Still Ignore the News.” Retrieved from http://journalism.about.com/od/trends/a/youngpeople.htm
Saad, L. (2013, July 8). “TV is Americans’ Main Source of News.” Retrieved from http://www.gallup.com/poll/163412/americans-main-source-news.aspx
Smith, C. (2015, July 29). “By the numbers: 150+ Amazing Twitter Statistics.” Retrieved from http://expandedramblings.com/index.php/march-2013-by-the-numbers-a-few-amazing-twitter-stats/
@WSJD (2013 December). Social Network Activity: Mobile vs. Desktop. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/wsjd/status/451886622788055040