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The Cork Independent has recently become a convert to Twitter. The ‘micro-blogging’ site, on which users post 140-character updates called ‘tweets’, is being lauded by many as revolutionising the way we use the internet.
At the moment, Twitter use in Ireland is not as widespread as other places, and it’s largely used by the media and by business. But it looks like that’s changing.
Since the Cork Independent set up its Twitter page (at http://www.twitter.com/corkindo), we have found a myriad uses for the site. At first, I was rather sceptical – what can one say in 140 characters that has any meaning or relevance? But then I realised that the main purpose of Twitter is not really ‘blogging’. Blogging normally consists of stating one’s opinion on a given topic (most blogs are themed on a general subject area such as cooking or politics, while many are personal).
But Twitter is more like a snatched pub conversation, where you can hear snippets of everything.
With Twitter you can follow news organisations such as ourselves, individual journalists, politicians, and businesses – you select who you follow and you receive all their updates. It means that, should a politician you’re following find something online of interest, they can share a link and pass it on to all their supporters (and detractors – many politicians get a lot of abuse over Twitter, because anyone can follow them). It’s simple, but incredibly effective for disseminating a message. For journalists, it’s the best way of finding real-life commentators on practically everything, short of spending weeks wandering around holding a placard with our questions.
The Iris Robinson debacle first came to my attention on Twitter. As have all the articles I’ve since read about it. I’ve watched the RTE News pieces on it via Twitter and YouTube, instead of rushing home for 6pm or turning it on in the office. I’ve seen the rude videos and ‘satirical’ songs via Twitter.
Usually when something comes along that’s considered ‘revolutionary’ at first, I’m very sceptical.
This week I have been following AA Roadwatch on Twitter for all the latest updates on road safety, Met Eireann for weather updates, and many, many, individual users throughout Cork for their localised updates; who knows better than the people on the ground, after all?
The rise of ‘citizen journalism’ using blogs, Twitter and other new media has been perceived as a threat to established journalists and media. But it doesn’t have to work that way.
A study conducted by the Pew Research Centre’s Project for Excellence in Journalism in Baltimore, the US, recently, found that much of the “news” people receive through these media contains no original reporting. Eighty per cent of stories repackaged old information. Of the 20 per cent that did contain new information, 95 per cent of that came from ‘old’ media – chiefly newspapers.
The study found that new media – blogs, Twitter and other websites – played only a limited role, as ‘an alert system and a way to disseminate stories from other places’, that merely provided a new platform for media to break news more quickly.
For all of those who wonder about the viability and future of local newspapers, there’s your answer. We are here, and we are here to stay. New platforms can be a help, not a hindrance.