Liz Holliday

Communications Specialist


The following is an article I wrote for my former website ‘Media Flair’ in February 2011:

“Microblogging” has sky-rocketed since Twitter first emerged onto the scene in 2006. It has become ingrained into our social landscape, now with millions of users worldwide. Twitter can be great for vents, rants, and links (not to mention celebrity dirt); but do tweets qualify as journalism? First off, here’s what the experts have to say…

According to Rory O’Connor of The Huffington Post Twitter has broken some news stories before the regional press. He cites the 2009 U.S. Airways’ plane crash in the Hudson River as a prime example. It was a Twitter user who broke the story first, not the international press (despite being surrounded by major international news services). Janis Krums’ tweet of a “plane in the Hudson” (complete with a TwitPic taken from his iphone) gained nearly 40,000 views within four hours of tweeting. The rapid traffic actually caused the site to crash (no pun intended).

O’Connor spoke to Twitter co-founder Biz Stone who said the news value of Twitter was realized early, “…things like earthquakes led to Twitter updates. The first Twitter report of the ground shaking during recent tremors in California, for example, came nine minutes before the first Associated Press alert”.

It seems O’Connor states Twitter is best served to Citizen Journalists, those who happen to be unintentionally on the scene of a news break. But I have to wonder, what about those of us who are already journalists, is Twitter really the best outlet? O’Connor’s interview with Biz Stone also mentioned the news networks adaptation to Twitter almost at its onset. Now every story published by, say The Guardian, is tweeted as soon as it is published.

“any journalist could benefit from an internship at Twitter, […] it’s where they’ll learn how to compete for the future.”

Brian Solis, a writer for BusinessWeek’s blog, likens Twitter’s capabilities to CNN’s 24-hour news network. According to Solis “news no longer breaks; it tweets. Some 200 million people learn about breaking events as they happen, trigger a network effect that demonstrates the reach and velocity of social physics.” Twitter is something that now “rivals traditional newswires.” So much so, that Solis said “any journalist could benefit from an internship at Twitter, […] it’s where they’ll learn how to compete for the future.”

But is Twitter really the future of journalism? Can Solis really expect a trainee journalist to aspire to intern at Twitter and not, say, ABC or The New York Times? Not everyone agrees that Twitter is Journalism. Michael De Monte, writer for ScribbleLive as well as BusinessWeek’s blog, says live tweeting has its limitations. Questions “can’t be answered in 140-character chunks” and in-depth live coverage is best left to live blogging, and not to Twitter. He states that “twitter works nicely for providing links to existing stories”, but it is not ideal. De Monte states “Twitter’s limitations make it a poor medium for news coverage. How much of a story can you tell in 140 characters?”

“Twitter’s limitations make it a poor medium for news coverage. How much of a story can you tell in 140 characters?”

With that, I have a tendency to agree with De Monte. Is Twitter journalism? Debatable. Is it a great way to solicit journalism to gain a wider readership? Absolutely. In 140 characters it is hard to say anything except the most shallow aspects of a story. However, Twitter’s ability to give (essentially) headlines of story and link to the longer version is where the journalism really comes in. I follow multiple news agencies and read stories from them throughout the day. The ability to retweet also offers users to not only gain information, but share it with their followers as well.

One thing these articles lacked is the importance of networking on Twitter. It allows a journalist to follow colleagues around the world. Not only is this important to stay up to date, but can help find details and contacts for future stories as well. When I hit a dead end on a story, I often tweet about it and ask my journalist followers to offer suggestions or contacts.

Twitter is more of the right hand man to journalism than a stand alone journalistic medium. To offer an analogy, Twitter is the robin to journalism’s batman: Twitter enhances, links, spreads, and helps journalism, but on it’s own it doesn’t give enough depth to do the job correctly. As for Brian Solis’ claim that Twitter is where journalists will “learn to compete for the future”; only time will tell.

Follow Liz Holliday on Twitter: @presentliz


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  3. Adriana says:

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  4. Prinsess says:

    Your article was excellent and eruitde.

  5. Claudeli says:

    That’s an expert answer to an interesting qusetoin