Over breakfast I came across an editorial in Fort Collins Now, called “Not twitterpated over Twitter” where Rebecca Boyle poked holes in the hype about Twitter, specifically about Twitter becoming an outlet for information. The leading quote: “Why would you need to read a Jurassic-era newspaper article about politics when you can follow the politicians themselves, who will tell you everything you need to know in 140 characters or less?”
I would suggest reading the article to get the context of my response.
What I find funny about the article is that Boyle insists that “newspapers provide context and meaning, both essential to our democracy”, yet in her own article she hypocritically takes the tweets of politicians out of context. By doing that, it’s easy to think that all these guys post about is what they’re having for lunch and who they’re with. Part of exercising democracy is having transparency in your public figures. While traditional media has enjoyed being that gatekeeper, the pervasiveness of Twitter now gives constituents the opportunity to get a glimpse of their representatives, see what they’re working on (answering that question, “What do you even do in these sessions?”), but also understanding that our elected officials are people too – with families, friends and activities they love.
“Politicos can rip their opponents and highlight the work they’re doing without relying on the media to spread those messages.”
So instead of trying to decipher the media’s interpretation (complete with bias and possible agenda) of an official’s words, I can get the information directly from the source, where at least I have a sense of their own agenda.
Boyle brought up the report of the low Twitter site retention rate (estimated 40%), a stat offered by Nielsen, which doesn’t take into account that much of Twitter’s interaction is not based on the web site (the same way that MySpace and Facebook requires). People access it through various tools and clients, as well as texting on their cell phone. That said, the retention rate is a stat measured when growth happens. The last time I checked, newspapers haven’t enjoyed any recent growth.
The most asinine quote of the article has to be this one:
“And many people who have been on the Twitter bandwagon promptly hopped off last week in the midst of the swine flu outbreak, when the site helped fuel a panic most public health officials have said is unwarranted.”
Unwarranted panic, as opposed to the tempered coverage offered by traditional media? Give me a break! Every news program had this as their leading story every night! This was on the front page of every newspaper all week long! This is the pot calling the kettle black! If media was able to offer that context – which they supposedly have an abundance of – then why wasn’t this offered with all of the Swine Flu coverage?
Here’s the bottom line on Twitter: Twitter is what you make of it. Some people will go and simply look to consume tweets from their favorite celebrity, but there are a degree of Twitter users that follow people who share their same interests and commonalities. I follow people who live in my community, share my passions (drumming, technology, sports), and offer great insight in the things that I care about. I don’t stop with simply consuming, I also offer my own insight. Twitter is meant to facilitate conversation, and that’s probably the toughest thing for newspaper “dinosaurs” to grasp: a two-way media street. Instead of relying on someone to ask questions for me, I can ask the questions of my figures myself.
And yes, you can also use Twitter to find out that LeVar Buron likes the new Star Trek movie.