In this portfolio project, there is going to be a discussion on the use of Twitter in newsgathering. This topic or media text is going to be discussed in relation to some issues and these include the rules/laws and policies that regulate the production and distribution of this media text, the influence of technology and the concerns that come up when this media text is distributed globally.
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It is going to be found out that there are no special or specific rules and policies that have been put in place to regulate the use of Twitter in newsgathering and each news organization has been trying to put in place particular guidelines for newsgathering using Twitter by journalists in order for them to engage in acting in an ethical manner.
Moreover, technology has had a great influence on newsgathering and has enabled Twitter to be among the media forms that avail information to the journalists within the shortest time possible after the occurrence of a particular event. It is also clear that Twitter is used on a global basis and this brings in some issues.
For instance, Twitter has made it possible for the news concerning the occurrence of disasters or any other events that require emergency response from across the world to be obtained within the shortest time possible. It has been pointed out that Twitter has not been organized in a proper way in order for the information obtained during such incidents can be helpful in offering a response effectively.
Using Twitter as a Newsgathering Tool
Twitter is a very popular service that has instant messaging, social networking and it also has a micro-blogging platform which was initially made with the intention of facilitating communication between users and their followers, informing them about their activities (Mollett, Moran & Dunleavy, 2011).
This form of social media has greater benefits as compared to other forms of social media networks involved in the process of news gathering for the reason that it is instant and more and more individuals are turning to it for the “real-time news” (Mollett, Moran & Dunleavy, 2011).
One of the many uses of Twitter is conveying news-briefs. It is interesting to find out that any person who turns on popular news channels like BBC and Al-Jazeera among other news channels is likely to observe a “news ticker” moving at the bottom of his or her TV set. At this point in time where we have a digital world that is increasingly depending on the internet to get news, that running ticker is found to be Twitter.
Rather than the news-reporting channels across the world just utilizing Twitter as a means of posting the views they have or using it as a news- distributing platform, they also utilize Twitter as a newsgathering tool as well (Dickinson, 2012).
Basing on the fact that having access to stories that make news will turn out to be limited to a particular level; the news reporters opt to rely on tweets coming from the users of Twitter to obtain information making news since a larger number of people, who may be at the scenes where particular events take place, have the fondness of posting what they may observe on their Twitter timelines (Knight, 2010).
Apart from the Twitter users’ timelines, there exist other applications that can be utilized in order to obtain news. One of the most common ones is ENPS. The ENPS is the software set up by the Associated Press.
Its installation was initially carried out in the year 1996. It offers all of the BBC journalists the information and news coming from other BBC journalists as well as “news agency” sources. It is also utilized in the production of both radio and TV programs (Dickinson, 2012).
Another good example of these applications is Hootsuite. This is a dashboard that facilitates the management of the social media which undertakes publishing, updating, tracking of activities and eventually undertaking the analysis of the outcomes across various social media networks and among these are Facebook and Twitter.
Some reporters, despite having ENPS, are still mostly looking at Hootsuite for their newsgathering and their reason for this is that Hootsuite enables them to engage in monitoring a larger number of sources on Twitter.
Through the use of Hootsuite, the news gatherers are able to build various Twitter lists for different news stories so that they can keep across developments in all areas. It is therefore very important to point out that using Twitter as a news gathering tool is very much productive.
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It is also important to note that use of Twitter for newsgathering is not just limited to news stations but it can also be used by researchers, owners of websites and bloggers among other users to obtain news on various topics in which they are interested.
Ethical Use of Twitter in Newsgathering and the regulating Rules and Policies
It can be generally agreed that Twitter is actually a strong tool which can assist a news reporter in newsgathering. Babe (2012) points out that a news reporter can engage in tapping into Twitter in order to come across a witness of an interesting event.
The journalist can also utilize Twitter in gathering information or ideas “for stories by crowdsourcing” (Babe, 2012, p.1). However, as on one hand Twitter provides the news reporters with unique opportunities to engage in updating their toolbox, on the other hand, Twitter presents fresh ethical challenges for maintaining journalistic integrity.
It is pointed out that when journalists come across the new territory of cyberspace, “some journalists may be unclear about how to apply old journalistic standards to new media trend of Twitter-based newsgathering, interviewing and fact-checking” (Babe, 2012, p.1).
It is reported that; in an interview, Steve Buttry, who is among the leading social journalists about the ethical issues associated with the use of Twitter in newsgathering; gave out some advice on the way of using Twitter in an ethical manner (Babe, 2012).
According to him, the most significant tenets of journalism have to remain the same at all times regardless of where they are tested and this includes use of Twitter (Babe, 2012). He points out that there is no thing that is of greater importance than verification and accuracy and this fact does not change when using Twitter (Babe, 2012).
The news reporters may get lied to by the sources that are not honest who do not understand what they are actually talking about during the telephone interviews as well as in in-person interviews.
Such errors may also be found in Twitter. In order for the journalists to use Twitter in an ethical manner, they need to treat Twitter as they would treat any other media form. For instance, the same good “journalistic sense” which is applied in email or in-person reporting has also to be applicable in Twitter reporting (Babe, 2012).
Considering rules and policies that may be used to regulate the use of Twitter in newsgathering, several examples may be given. For instance, it is reported that the “Digital First Media” CEO, John Paton has come up with rules that employees have to follow while using social media. Digital First Media operates “Journal Registry Company” (Babe, 2012).
There are no special rules and guidelines for the use of social media (Babe, 2012). The CEO (John Paton) holds a philosophy in which he believes that the journalists have to use social media in a similarly ethical manner as when they are using any other newsgathering tool.
He points out the fact that there exist no rules for using notebooks, emails or even telephone and therefore, the news reporters are expected “to identify themselves in any format and to behave honestly and ethically…..that doesn’t change with Twitter” (Babe, 2012, p.1).
At the core of conducting oneself in an honest and ethical manner is making attempts to engage in verifying each individual fact or quote which is gathered from Twitter and ensuring that it is utilized in an honest, accurate and fair manner to present the news story (Goehler, 2010).
It is pointed out that although the use of Twitter can bring in “challenges to verification”, excellent news reporters will overcome such challenges and come up with the ways by which to undertake validation of the research they have carried out, even in the absence of strict rules and regulations (Goehler, 2010).
However, as on one hand some journalists support the idea of providing the reporters with the freedom and trust to come up with their own decisions that are ethical regarding using Twitter, on the other hand, a large number of news organizations do not agree with this and make a choice to engage in regulating the decision making process of the reporter by using rules and policies.
For instance, it is reported that “The Oregonian”, engaged in issuing a Twitter rule that was controversial in 2011, informing its journalists to look at re-tweets as endorsements and not quotes (Babe, 2012).
Moreover, another example is the Associated Press and this has put in place social media guidelines which the employees have to follow and the guidelines are updated on a regular basis. The social media guidelines presented by the Associated Press in the recent times include some specific Twitter guidelines concerning such issues as “following users, deleting tweets, correcting tweets and re-tweeting” (Babe, 2012, p.1).
While debates may come up concerning the issue of whether or not guidelines of this nature are completely needed; with no doubt, such guidelines can be of great help in particular circumstances.
For those news reporters who may be new in using Twitter, or those who have a feeling of uneasiness regarding how to use Twitter in an ethical manner, keenly looking at the guidelines for the use of social media for various news organizations can be found to be very helpful.
There is no need for the journalists to feel restricted by ideas or information they come across but they can engage in building their knowledge and equipping themselves with certain useful ethical guidelines. Since Twitter is here to stay, it is very important that journalists come to know how to use it quickly and more effectively; this will enable them to continuously fit in the news world.
Influence of Technology and Issues That Arise When the Use of Twitter for Newsgathering is Distributed Globally
By the year 2008, technology had advanced to a level that it could make it possible to have faster and effective gathering of information, especially by use of the social media (Couldry, 2010).
For instance, it was found out that when China was hit by an earthquake in May 2008, this event was reported on Twitter before the United States of America “Geological Survey” had engaged in recording it on their website and also one hour before the news was presented on CNN (Spencer, 2010).
It was interesting to note that such news could move so quickly across a distance of more than five thousand miles and this was made possible by the use of Twitter.
Later on, towards the end of 2008, Twitter was praised as being a trustworthy tool for conveying breaking news about the terrorist attacks that were carried out in Mumbai, claiming the lives of over one hundred and fifty people (Spencer, 2010). Following this event, “the tech world” was overflowing with news of how the social media was undergoing evolution in this tragedy.
Some people presented comments that CNN is no longer very much effective as Twitter and this is because Twitter is making it possible for news to be obtained in the shortest time possible; in fact, almost instantly, after the occurrence of a disaster or event.
Other global events which Twitter has made it possible for the news about their occurrence to be obtained across the world in the shortest time possible include the violence that occurred in Iran following the elections in 2009 and the Haiti earthquake that took place in the year 2010.
It is pointed out that, so far, even if Twitter is yet to be a place of solid facts because the situation is still very disorganized, this is a place where the “news is breaking” (Spencer, 2010).
Supporting the utilization of such social media tools as Twitter in newsgathering is a public mind-set which involves people having the “spirit of giving”.
This spirit of giving put together with the development of the “open source technologies”, on which a large number of these forms of media are established, has produced a partnership in which the volunteers that have various talents are in a position and very much willing and ready to respond.
But on the other hand, this quick form of communication and its subsequent inspired participants, while fascinating, is not focused to a unit that can really make a worthwhile response
Conclusion and Recommendations
The paper has presented the discussion on the use of Twitter in gathering news and also on some of the issues that are related to this. It has been found out that Twitter is being used as a newsgathering tool and it has proved to be very productive and effective.
It has been realized that this form of social media is not just being used as a newsgathering tool for the news reporters or news stations but it is also being used by researchers and owners of websites among other users to obtain news on various topics in which they are interested.
It is also important to point out the issue concerning the rules and policies that regulate newsgathering using Twitter and in this regard; it has been found out that there are no special or specific rules or policies that help in newsgathering using Twitter.
However, some news organizations have come up with their own guidelines for their journalists. While there might be arguments about the issue of whether or not guidelines of this nature are completely needed, such guidelines are very important.
This is because, having special rules and policies in place will enable the journalist to make decisions regarding how to gather news using Twitter, without any fear or doubts about whether or not he or she may be acting in an unethical manner.
It is important that we have specific or special policies and laws that regulate the journalist’s decision making process while they engage in gathering news using Twitter. These rules and policies need to apply to all news organizations and to journalists who engage in gathering news using Twitter.
Advancement in technology has made it possible for the social media forms such as Twitter to develop to a level that they can work very effectively.
For instance, Twitter has proved to be very effective in offering information concerning the occurrence of both natural and artificial disasters which require emergency responses across the world. However, there is need for Twitter to be organized in the most appropriate way possible so that it can be in a position to help in obtaining information that can be helpful in offering emergence responses from any part of the world.
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Goehler, R. M. (2010). Social media, blogs and media liability: Loss prevention and risk management on the New Frontier. CNA. Web.
Knight, M., (2010), Blogging and Citizen Journalism. Cape Town, South Africa: Juta.
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