Is Twitter bad news for News?

Last night as I was about to go to sleep, I was about to close out of twitter on my phone, but I noticed the name of one of my favorite athletes “trending” on twitter. I immediately searched and found out he had suffered a pretty serious head injury while playing in a basketball game in Las Vegas. Now, it was almost midnight, the 11 O’Clock news had long since been turned off and my laptop was dead, but  yet I was getting up to the minute reports of what was happening in a gym in Nevada thousands of miles away. I began to think how crazy it was that a gym full of innocent by-standers (non-journalists) were providing people everywhere with breaking news. It reminded me of a rule about technology posed by Neil Postman, that says “A new medium does not add something; it changes everything.”

Twitter has changed the game. No longer do people have to wait to get news from 11:30 pm when the newscast goes off the air, until 5am when daybreak begins. They can monitor names and stories all night long, simply by watching what people, (not journalists) have to say about them on twitter. News stations try and post stories to their websites as soon as they break, but there is no competing with a person who is live tweeting real time updates at a breaking news event. It’s the equivalent of having countless eyewitnesses at your fingertips, (although not always reliable- considering I read that Nolan Smith was paralyzed last night, immediately followed by a report of him moving his arms and legs and talking…)

The statement made by Postman that new mediums do not add to things, they change them, could not be more accurate in my mind. He gives the example of the printing press in Europe, saying after it was invited it was not “The printing press AND Europe. It was a new Europe because of the printing press.” I feel like twitter is the News industry’s printing press. Due to the immediacy of twitter, I do not think newsrooms will be able to stay the way they are for long. I think technology as a whole from this point forward, will demand the industry become more fluid and change more rapidly than we have ever seen it need to change before.


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