Thursday, 2 April 2009

The big switch to Twitter

The Guardian yesterday claimed that after 188 years of traditional printing with ink it was going to switch exclusively to electronic coverage using the social networking site Twitter. The idea was to turn all the news stories into "Tweets", which are brief messages of a maximum of 140 words. This move was to "harness the unprecedented newsgathering power of the service".

It was of course an April Fool's joke, but I feel there were serious undertones. Increasingly, blogs and websites such as Twitter are uncovering news stories which are not picked up by mainstream news organisations. Bloggers for example exposed Boris Johnson's bus plans. The mainstream news organisations' hegonomy as gatekeeper is thus under threat.

The joke article clearly shows that the Guardian recognises the impact that services such as Twitter, Facebook and citizen journalism are having on the newsgathering process. There is no doubt that the paper and other mainstream news organisations are already harnessing the "unprecedented newsgathering power" of non-traditional news outlets.

The democratisation of the internet via blogs, wikis, citizen journalism, etc has left some journalists quaking in their boots. Others see it as an opportunity. I feel that as long as mainstream news organisations continue to interact with their readers and harness their collective knowledge, the ink will continue to flow from printing presses.

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