Monday, 13 February 2012

Twittering breaking stories: tweet first, or ask questions later?

There has been a lot of conversation and focus this week on the constantly-evolving role that social media ties in with traditional broadcast and print mediums.

The BBC and Sky are asking their reporters to not Tweet news before it’s filed on their official mediums, or before it hits the airwaves. That one one level may seem constricting. But is it necessary to protect their reputation?

Sky News, for example, argue that this means that the information that you share on a branded account is subject to the same editorial concerns as any other piece of journalism, and unsubstantiated rumours and opinion shouldn’t be associated with their brand. I can see their point.

I would also say that I get certain commentators points about not being able to compete the with BANG! NEWS! NOW! echo-chamber culture that we live in. But there is a very big difference between being first, and being right.

I know that some beat reporters and journalists are concerned that not being able to retweet an influential source of news that doesn’t belong to your brand shackles them, rather than protects them. But think about it - if you were a Fox anchor, and CNN broke a news story before you, do you craft your own response, or do you just retweet their content?

Here’s what the BBC had to say about it.
“We prize the increasing value of Twitter, and other social networks, to us (and our audiences) as a platform for our content, a newsgathering tool and a new way of engaging with people,” the BBC’s social media editor told The Guardian. “Being quick off the mark with breaking news is essential to that mission. But we’ve been clear that our first priority remains ensuring that important information reaches BBC colleagues, and thus all our audiences, as quickly as possible – and certainly not after it reaches Twitter.”
Personally, I think that this is a great opportunity really work on the online content that you offer.

We all know that the BBC produces online content that is the envy of the world, thanks in part to the unique way they are funded. But it also means that they have a  responsibility to report truthfully, and with integrity - something that is not certain from other sources (citizen journalists, political bloggers etc). So I can understand their stance on social media, which on the whole I think is pretty open and fair.

So yes, whilst breaking stories is important on Twitter, you will never be able to be as quick as the citizen journalists. You will never be quicker than the man on the street in the middle of the riot with his camera out.

Look to provide insight. Look to find or produce stories and updates that people will read because they are compelling, not just because they are there. 140 characters can break news, but used correctly, it can be the gateway to a wealth of engaging content

Can you beat Twitter when it comes to breaking news? Yes. But try to remember that it’s the story itself that does it, not just you.

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