Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Is Twitter Making Reporters Lazy?

As far as I can tell, the primary source for this CNN story is . . . a bunch of tweets from random Twitter users:

UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown apologized "profusely" on Wednesday after he was caught on microphone describing a woman who spoke to him on the election campaign trail as "bigoted."

. . .

One Twitter user, Thermalsocks, said: "Gordon Brown has created a total survailance society. Glad to see he got caught out, now he knows how we all feel."

Another user, urbantaoist85, said: "Anyone else up for making all politicians wear a microphone at all times?" Ririnyan added: "I wonder if that was the final nail in the coffin for Labour this time." Andy_Francis said: "I think GB has just kissed goodbye to any chances Labour had left."

However CupCate wrote: "I'd be more concerned if Brown had said, "What that brilliant woman said about all those damn immigrants, too right!"

. . .

But one Twitter user, SusanCalman, spoke for many when she said: "I feel sorry for Gordon Brown. If people I've met knew half the things I'd said about them when I left I would be stabbed and left for dead."
How has this become an acceptable method of reporting on overseas elections?

Update: Here is Andrew Sullivan's (non-Twitter) analysis:

Gillian Duffy is a life-long Labour voter. She doesn't like being called a racist because she worries about immigrants; she's fed up with the welfare state rewarding, as she sees it, the unworthy; she's working class; she's not alone. This is Brown's base. He has essentially attacked his own base in the most condescending two-faced manner possible, on a live microphone, on every broadcast. Imagine if Obama's gaffe about "clinging to guns and religion" had been uttered by John McCain, about his own base. With a week to go.


MediaMaven said...

My feelings on Twitter are very complex; I've written about some of them on my blog, last year. A lot of reporters consider it a boon in terms of finding story ideas and sources, but this is pure laziness (notice there isn't a byline). Usually Twitter comments are only reported if the story has to do with Twitter (like Twitter's influence on the Iranian protests in June); a reputable reporter, if using Twitter as a starting point, would individually message the users and cite their comments under their own name. This should also be protocol when using a social networking service, but it's meant as a starting points for sources or leads, not the endpoint. The Times wrote about this, with Facebook as an example, several months ago.

Comparing Andrew's response with this stupid piece isn't fair, because the article isn't offering real analysis. The story alone is also silly (both my brother and I responded with "that's it?" when hearing about it on the news this evening), but Andrew gives it a proper context in his comparison. CNN devalues it even more than it appears on the surface.

mikhailbakunin said...

Right. Don't you think that a story like this should offer real analysis, though?

That's kind of my point . . .