Tag Archives: Twitter

‘Thanks Twitter’ – a real triumph for media freedom

Today we have witnessed, in Alan Rusbridger’s own words, a ‘great victory for free speech.’

As if you didn’t know, this afternoon, after a frenzy of online activity, a gagging order (a ‘super-injuction’ ) was lifted which had been imposed on the Guardian in relation to a question from a then unnamed MP, Paul Farrelly to Parliament about the oil traders Trafigura.

There is little to say on the matter that hasn’t already been said because over the last 20 or so hours I have witnessed the fascinating and wonderfully detailed unfolding of events, and I have been able to do so by reading comments from those in the thick of it, via twitter.

Once again the net has come up trumps, not only in the speed and efficiency that information has been passed on but by making a very important difference in the outcome of the case itself.

The ‘Kafkaesque’ restrictions were originally leaked on twitter by Rusbridger himself on 11 October – if you could call the small amount of information he was allowed to tweet a leak at all.

Alan-Rusbridger-001

Rusbridger thanked Twitter users for their support

Breaking news. Guardian gagged by a company in the High Court. We can’t tell you which company, or why. Er, that’s it.”

In their original front-page story today, the Guardian said it was prevented from identifying the MP who had asked the question, what the question was, which minister might answer it, or where the question was to be found. They were also banned from telling the public why.

This totally unprecedented and ‘doubly menacing’ threat on media freedom, a restriction of reporting on Parliament, was met with fury online where the voices of those who could not be silenced rang out loud and clear.

The transparency and openness of the internet and the immediacy of twitter allowed fervent discussion to take place and revealed not only information about the gagging order but the outrage against those who imposed it.

Frankly it proved that a gagging order will not work when up against intelligent, media savvy internet users.

I follow a fairly media-centric group of tweeters, so it is understandable that my newsfeed was taken up mostly by comment on the #guardian #trafigura and RTs of @arusbridger but one glance at trendsmap shows that it wasn’t just media types entering the debate:

guard

This amount of public involvement in media freedom cases should be celebrated. There was a sense  of accomplishment following the collapse of the gagging order, that the internet – which can often get a hard time from those with a stake in newspapers- made a substantial difference in a very serious matter.

More importantly it made a mockery of Trafigura who, let it not be forgotten should be under the spotlight for the horrendous and illegal fly-tipping of chemical waste on the Ivory Coast in 2006.

Alan Rusbridger on the future of journalism

I wanted to share this video of Alan Rusbridger, editor-in-chief of the Guardian, speaking at an event at the Institut für Medienpolitik in Berlin.

I think his comments about “inverting the journalistic model” are particularly interesting. Journalists can no longer hand out “pearls of wisdom” to people who “actually know more than we do”. Instead we should use the wealth of information available to us and strike up conversations between experts and journalists in order to improve the content of papers…

Anyway, watch for yourself:

Twitter ye not…

twitterFollowing news about the onslaught of new tweeters, inspired by  ‘how-to’ supplement spreads and advice from master tweeter Stephen Fry, that have appeared in recent months, it is interesting to find out that only 40% will continue twittering away 30 days later.

This data (released by Nielsen Online ) comes as little surprise to me. It seems Twitter is a victim of its own medium.

Primarily I use twitter as a professional tool but the majority of people still see Twitter as a self-promotional and desperate attempt by people to engage with people about their breakfast or a missed bus.

I must admit that when given a stage, albeit a miniature one, on which to tell the whole world how you are feeling, it can be tempting to get carried away. It’s human nature to try and tell other people what you are experiencing, however banal, in order to feel connected to the world. (This is a subject worthy of much more consideration and something my friend Jenny Winfield has talked about on her blog.)

Saying this, I am still unsure about this seemingly banal and pointless tweeting. I use Twitter because I benefit from it, professionally. If I only engage with people about how tired/late/hungry they are then I am gaining very little.

For young journalists the benefits of using twitter are  information sharing and, of course, networking (involuntary heaving action should be experienced here). It has enabled me to engage with admired journalists, like @jemimakiss and @indiaknight, and promote my work.

It has also become the platform for a number of important campaigns and has been employed by news stations to track global disasters, such as the Mumbai bombings or #swineflu. These are of course, of interest to everyone but are only experienced after a prolonged and engaged use of the service.

The reason why people aren’t returning, as far as I can see,  is that those without an agenda to push see very little immediate reward in Twitter, unlike those sharing information or using the site for work.

It seems that for most people, with the speed and wealth of information available, anything that gives less than instant and personal gratification is no longer good enough.

Twitter demands some kind of loyalty from it’s users. If these everyday-life tweeters aren’t getting anything in return for devoting their precious time to Twitter, they won’t return to the nest.

New media demands more than ‘robo-journalists’

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Twitter was once again the topic of choice in my online journalism lecture today.  Of slightly more interest this week was the ‘star-studded’ discussion panel (my lecturer Chris Brauer‘s own words) who were chipping in their well-received thoughts on the topic and on new media in general.

Talking and tweeting: the discussion panel at City University

Talking and tweeting: the discussion panel at City University

Blogger and new media expert Jemima Kiss (@jemimakiss) and director of POLIS, Charlie Beckett (@charliebeckett) were speaking, along with BBC’s Pete Clifton, writer Anthony Thornton and internet entrepreneur Matteo Berlucchi. One point of interest, on a brief vacation from the topic of twitter, was that of the concept of the ‘robojournalist’ and in particular how the role of the journalist is changing.

Charlie Beckett made reference to what can be seen as ‘old media’ and a time when television channels and newspapers set themselves up as the foundations of  society proclaiming, “we are the world!”.

Well, now that world has opened up, in a way we are only just beginning to realise. New media has transformed that out of date mode of thought and allows each and every one of us to engage with an entirely new range of audiences. It is time therefore for the next generation of reporters to step up to the plate.

In this world of new media one arrives, hopefully, multi-skilled and laden with gadgets. Armed and ready to capture every nugget and nano-second of news in order to throw it out to the world via the internet.

But Jemima Kiss,  now affectionately labelled ‘mistress of multi-skilling’ by Charlie Beckett, issued a warning. It simply isn’t enough to carry the tools around but to learn to use them effectively. Obvious, no?

Perhaps not, it seems many people think that by simply using the newest gadgets or latest medium they are, by default, successful journalists. Unfortunately not. It is now about learning the appropriate way of utilising each medium to communicate successfully.

Peter Thornton warned against a generation of journalists who are so multi-skilled they would simply be “crap at everything”. Instead, he urged, it is about learning about and selecting the tools you are good at using.

On a more general note, as old practice and new media grate alongside each other, it is clear to me that you cannot push new concepts into an old model. Charlie Beckett agrees, saying that this has been happening for too long, as new media is still not being taken seriously as a stand-alone idea.

I would be lying if, yet again, I didn’t feel a little overwhelmed on the topic of (here it comes again) new media. It is a tough job to balance both the innovative and traditional elements of journalism, but I really think this should be looked at as a positive challenge.

The fact that the boundaries of communication have been blown wide open should be seen as an exciting opportunity for budding reporters to approach journalism and engage with the world on a completely new level.