Twitter and the Media

So far I have spent most of my time blogging talking about the politician/party side of social media. So I thought it was time to have a look at the media side of things. I thought it would be good to get some comments from some real, working journos out there. I was lucky enough to get Jessica Williams, Felix Marwick and Frances Cook. I picked them for a reason, they give a reasonable spread of experience, Jessica having been involved in the media since 1995, Felix since 1999 and Frances since the late 2000s. Both Jessica and Frances joined Twitter for non professional reasons. Frances has the same experience that many students find these days, that Twitter is a great procrastination tool.


Twitter is seen as a two way medium by the media, there is the ability to interact with people who are consuming the media’s output. Within main stream media there is obviously a limitation on time available to impart content. Even more so in commercial outlets. Twitter can be seen as a way to provide background information, or expand on why a certain angle was taken or not taken. What comes across from all of those interviewed is a sense that Twitter has provoked changes to the way that media works, but it has not fundamental change. Whale Oil likes to say that explaining is loosing, which as a politician I suspect is true. But when it comes to the media, I think the ability, that twitter offer, to directly question reporters is a good thing. Getting an insight into the thinking behind stories is good. However this should be done respectfully.


All of the reporters commented on the same issue of trolls. It is sad to see the comments that get into peoples Twitter streams. I will admit I have crossed the line a bit in the past, but I am trying to be more civil. However, they all point out that engaging with trolls is not a good idea.


Twitter provides a window into the thoughts and views of a particular section of the wider community. It is important to remember that not everyone is on Twitter. Currently there are around  350,000 people on Twitter in New Zealand, this is around 10% of the population. As Frances said, “Use it, but never in isolation.” This is sound advice, not just for the media, but for politicians.


 “Is it sometimes a source? Yes. Is it a major source? No.” – Felix Marwick. Should reporters hide where they pick up stories? I don’t think so. I like the idea that we, as the public, can see where reporters are getting their stories from. 


The thing that I love about Twitter, and that the reporters all seem to grasp, is the insights that it offers. Twitter is seen by some as a collection of 140 character, narcissistic messages. However, when it is used creatively, it has so many strengths, it can provide  The fact that it offers Felix to post full audio of stand ups:

I also find it handy (via Chirbit) for posting  full clips of stand ups. Sometimes it’s good for people to know how an entire stand up went rather than just  hear snippets of it.

or as Jessica says:

 I can tell background stories about what’s happening at a particular event.

The more information we as voters have, the better. Not everyone is going to listen to the full audio of a stand up, but there will be those who do. You never know, the person who listens might be the one with the knowledge that makes sense of an otherwise innocent comment.  I think everyone is still learning how to best use Twitter, how to get the best return from it. There will be slip ups, or things that don’t work, but it is still  a developing area.


I have blogged before about Judith Collins running from the media, I don’t think, in the past, we would have known as much about that day as we do now. The media are meant to be there to hold those in power to account, Twitter helps increase that power, by allowing the media to shortcut itself. Twitter gives us a direct line to those in the media, this is a good thing.


Unsurprisingly the rules that these reporters live by on Twitter are the rules that many MPs and candidates should live by. Keep things professional, the image you project on Twitter reflects on you and your organisation.


I will leave the last word to Felix and Frances.

Never tweet drunk – that stuff will haunt you forever.- Felix

It’s all fun and banter until you end up in the Herald! – Frances