Twitter Becoming A Source, Not Just News

Twitter logo Is Twitter moving beyond being a news story and towards becoming a credible source for them?

Not too long ago I got excited whenever I saw Twitter mentioned as the subject of a news article. Recently, though, I’ve noticed an increasing number of mainstream news articles using Twitter as a source rather than a subject.

The idea of Twitter as a source for journalists is nothing new. Twitter users memorably beat the mainstream media to the punch during the June 2008 earthquake in Chengdu, and there was widespread coverage of Twitter’s role in getting a Berkeley student out of an Egyptian jail. However, it’s only recently that I’ve started to see the service mentioned as a source rather than a news story in itself.

The latest was a piece by Geoffrey York in today’s Globe and Mail about Chinese athlete Liu Xiang’s unexpected withdrawl from the 110-metre hurdles in Beijing. York writes:

“One fan at the Bird’s Nest stadium, Celia Chen, said the thousands of Chinese spectators seemed “shockingly angry” when they poured out of the stadium after their hero’s withdrawal. “This country really doesn’t know how to lose,” she told others on the Twitter social-networking service.

Twitter is far from being a household name. However, with recent Twitter-focused articles in Business Week, USA Today and LA Times and mentions like this cropping up with increasing frequency, that time may soon come.

  • Dave, Twitter is nothing more than an assembly of individual voices. I can’t see it ever being credited as a source. Any journalist worth her salt is going to look for the identity of the person who tweeted and attribute it to that person.

    I think about the tweets I saw the day the Russia Georgia war broke out. If you simply followed the Twitter stream you’d hear that Russian invaded Georgia. But you would be totally unaware of Georgia’s earlier military action in the separatist regions. Most of this chatter was from Twitterers located in North America – the other side of the world from where the action was actually taking place. Anyone relying on these reports had better look at the identity of the twitterer to see if they are actually reporting what they saw or simply relaying what they heard.

    No, twitter won’t become a news source. The people who tweet will continue to be the sources. But, of course, it becomes incredibly easy for someone who actually has seen something happen to report on it.

  • Joe, I think we’re saying the same thing in different ways. In the Globe and Mail excerpt I cited, for example, the reporter quoted something a person had said on Twitter.

    You’re right – Twitter is an assembly of voices. However, it provides an extra outlet for those voices to be heard and that’s how some journalists are using it.

  • I don’t see Twitter becoming a “source” anytime soon, or ever. It’s just a service that happens to be very “now” and probably won’t have the same cache that it has today. It will eventually disappear from the consciousness of the mass media the same way Second Life and now Facebook have. “Shiny object syndrome”, right? Or does that only apply to gadgets?