“We are putting a massive amount of trust in one platform here. Twitter is throttling this mechanism obviously for its own commercial ends (…) If we put so much of our newsgathering onto one platform we’re in real danger,” said Mike Butcher, TechCrunch UK editor, yesterday as part of a panel on the ‘140-character story’.
While much of yesterday’s Media140 conference focused on best practice and how journalists can use microblogging tools such as Twitter, Butcher and his fellow panellists comments were a warning to news organisations tempted to jump on a social media bandwagon.
As journalists, ‘we always want the next big thing, because it validates the fact that we’ve written about them’, said fellow speaker Bill Thompson, referring to his own experience as a freelance technology writer.
But, added Thompson, if ‘old media’ rules are applied too readily to new media, organisations will ‘miss the essential quality of what Twitter is doing’.
Some ‘old’ guidelines still apply, suggested BBC technology editor Darren Waters: “We cannot get into a world where the real-time web means the ‘not wrong for long’ era.”
Listening to yesterday’s panel the issue of the personal/professional divide when journalists enter social media or online communities – indeed how ‘social’ they can be on these platforms – is still a work in progress.
The BBC is still working on its editorial policy towards personal social media use by journalists (and after all ‘social media’ is not some fixed, homogenous lump) – it has set out some guidelines at this link – the corporation must consider its relationship with its audience and to what extent personal content is seen as representing the BBC.
But – as panellist Jon Gripton, senior editor at Sky News Online, suggested – in terms of following up reports on Twitter and social media, for example of breaking news events, the same journalistic attitude towards fact-checking and verification apply.
A mantra from Thompson: “I don’t believe anything I see or read on Twitter, it tells me where to go.”