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08/04/2013 | Webreality

Twitter is the news


How did you hear of the death of Margaret Thatcher?

If you're a user of Twitter or Facebook, I'd hazard a guess you heard about it from one of those social networks before you heard it from the "news media."

In a world afflicted by information overload and attention deficit disorder, the 140 characters of Twitter are often the sum total of what we learn about important news before moving on.

"News" in its purest sense. "What's new? Really? Wow. [5 minute pause] Hey, now something else is new! Wow."

Where does this leave the tradtional news media? I guess they would urge us not to trust what we read generally on social media and favour them above all other sources. Truth is, they simply can't compete with social media for the hardest of hard core news gathering.

I have a Twitter list called "Jersey tweeters" which collates the output of 425 users (at today's date) of Twitter who live in Jersey. (Feel free to follow it.) If I ever want to know what's going on in Jersey, in real time, I ask Jersey tweeters. It never fails to produce useful info. There's usually some spurious noise, too, but that's easy enough to filter out with a discerning mind. In much the same way that newspaper advertising can be tuned out in the hunt for information.

Recent local events that my Jersey tweeters list has told me about before the news media got to them include:

  • The Blue Islands landing incident
  • The gas tank fire
  • The Plemont decision
  • The big snow
  • The air raid siren

Those are just the ones I can remember off the cuff. In each case, the trad news media provided useful retrospective analysis, but never the news itself.

People make news, and people are where the news is, with their mobile devices, long before the news media arrive.

So what should we call the "news media" in future?