To tweet, or not to tweet?

13 May

You can say what you like about Twitter, but love it or hate it, it looks like it’s here to stay, at least for the next few years. The question is, as a journalist, should you embrace the Twitterverse? If you say yes, how should you use it? Strictly for business only? Or do you tweet about the ‘little things’ like whether you’ve had your latte for the day or if your bus driver smiles at you?

Opinion seems to be widely varied on this topic, even amongst my journalism teachers. Having made it to third year, I like to think I’m able to challenge my teachers views on this without running the risk of failing, so here goes.

I’ll start at the top of the academic hierarchal food chain with Professor Matthew Ricketson. As far as I know, he doesn’t have a twitter account. Without actually asked him about his stance on social media, I won’t put words in his mouth, but generally, actions speak louder than words.

Jason Wilson is next in the chain of command, as course convenor. He tweets every day and has over 2600 followers. His tweets cover links to news stories and he has a huge interaction with other journos and policy makers. He has been known to tweet about unpacking the dishwasher too. Jason also has a blog, which looks a little abandoned of late, which he says is due to busyness.

Lecturer Julie Posetti is an outspoken supporter of the use of social media and twitter by journalists. She is a prolific tweeter with over 7000 followers. She was the only teacher that included twitter as a compulsory assessment requirement for my journalism degree. Her tweetstream provides links to the news of the day, along with her personal opinions on pretty much everything. Her blog provides insights into what she thinks the future of journalism will look like, along with some personal comments about defamation threats against her by the editor of the Australian after she live tweeted a conference.

Print lecturer Crispin Hull is what you would call ‘old school’ in his views on social media. He doesn’t have a Twitter account, and has been spotted scoffing about my requirements to tweet for ABJ. He does have a blog though, which is more of an online portfolio than anything else. Interestingly for a traditional print journo, it’s the most up-to-date blog out of all my lecturers.

Tutors Eleri Harris and Scott Bridges are the youngest members of  staff, and are consistently tweeting and twitpic-ing their lives. They both have over 1000 followers on twitter and Scott has a personal blog.

Please?

So after four months of solid tweeting, what do I think? I don’t think you can argue that Twitter doesn’t have its place in news media, but what that place is, is easily debated. I think twitter is great for forging friendships, connections and networking, but I am still to be convinced that it’s here to stay for the long term.

For breaking stories, like Osama bin Laden’s death, it’s perfect- but for deeper analysis and expert opinion I still turn to traditional media. It’s great for linking to those stories, and providing humorous and witty banter, but I can’t say it’s certainly had a deeper impact on my knowledge of the ‘bigger’ issues society faces by itself.

It’s good for sourcing opinions, but even those are skewed to people who use twitter regularly and therefore limited to a sub-section of the population as a whole.

People who interact with twitter and don’t just use it as a newsfeed, tend to have strong opinions on pretty much everything, and can agenda set and push their issues and views on subjects, without putting forward a balancing view. I am also guilty of this.

I think including personal tweets can come across as self-indulgent on the one hand, but also adds a personal touch and ‘humanizes’ you on the other. I get the highest interaction from my followers who I haven’t personally met when I tweet about what I’m doing, or my thoughts on something, instead of just straight facts.

I guess the main question is ‘will I keep tweeting, now that I don’t have to?’ At this stage, I think that answer is yes, but probably not so often or so self-indulgently.

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