twitter at SPJ Conversation About the Chronicle - 027Imagine your’re an old media journalist.

You’re under deadline, you’re trying to fill out an extra column inch for the front page, or you’re in the edit suite and you’re 15 seconds short of the time the producer needs you to fill.

What’s an old media journalist in a new media world going to do?

Fire up Twitter and Facebook and copy a few tweets or wall posts about the topic, or do a screenshot of a memorial page and throw the quotes up in a graphic with a voice over.

Done. Deadline met.

Yes, journalists are flocking to Twitter and Facebook in droves, and while some of them are exploiting social networks as great resources for research, the lazy ones are just doing the ol’ Ctrl-C / Ctrl-V[contd]

Last week, when the meltdown at the Britney Spears concert struck, I found myself glued to Twitter. I was at a poker table, but I had my phone out scanning the tweets as they flew by. I retweeted a few, and it became a great distraction – like I was there. I even tossed in a few lines of commentary myself, like this one:

So when britney restarted, did they just press play on the iPod and pick up in mid song?

The next morning, I got an email from a colleague. My tweet had made the paper.

“Meanwhile, Britney’s distaste for B.C. bud quickly made her the brunt of jokes on Twitter.

“So when britney restarted, did they just press play on the iPod and pick up in mid-song? #brit #Vancouver #gong show,” wrote @buzzbishop, an employee at Vancouver’s Virgin radio.

“Hmmm . . . Britney must be scared she’s not going to pass that next drug test. That is hilarious,” wrote @CassieMitchell.”

So, I took to Twitter with my thoughts, in 3 parts.

So my tweets about britney were quoted in the province this am. They didn’t follow up, just did a cut and paste. Lazy? I think so.[1]

I get that twitter is a source for journos, but it should be used for research and leads NOT copy and paste content.[2]

Unless, of course, the journo is the one “twitterviewing” the masses by asking directly for comments on a topic.[3]

The first tweet was forwarded along by Matthew Ingram of The Globe and Mail. That lead to an interesting back and forth discussion about how journalists should use Twitter in this new era.

@sarahintampa “I can’t speak to this instance exactly, but a tweet is a statement made in public – fine to snag, post, & discuss IMO.”

@pattersonbrands: couple months ago @gillianshaw wanted to use one of my tweets & she contacted me for OK and clarification. She gets it.

@CoffeeGeek: are you honestly surprised, Buzz? I’ve had past experience with the Province (and Sun) and find fact checking, research lacking.

@malicious88: Yeah, it’s lazy. Especially since you’re not exactly hard to track down for a quick quote if needed.

@matthewi: that’s a tough one — tweet is public statement to some extent, but if more than one is used I would want to follow up

Gillian Shaw writes a Digital Life column for The Vancouver Sun, a sister paper of The Province. I asked her about the cut and paste of tweets, and she offered sage advice.

My advice is never tweet anything you wouldn’t mind reading on the front page, but I like to check with people.

The fact that what you write on Twitter is immediately considered public comment should serve as warning that what you post on Twitter, or Facebook, can be used against you.

To offer a contrast to the approach of Katie Mercer at The Province, you just need to look at how Global TV‘s Sophie Lui tackled the same story.

Sophie approached me with a personal note via Facebook. We traded emails and connected on the phone. Sophie knew I would be valuable to her story, but instead of just cutting and pasting, she did some old media legwork using new media research tools.

Does it *really* bother me that I was quoted randomly in the paper? No.

Was it terribly lazy? No.

Could she have followed up with me easily? Yes. I’m entirely reachable via Twitter or email.

It was, however, just the latest instance of a trend I’ve seen creeping into print, television and radio newsrooms across the continent. The simplicity of quoting Twitter and Facebook is an easy way out and it’s being taken far too often.

The comments tossed by users on Facebook and Twitter can be instantly valuable to a story. Hell, if I was a news director or producer, I would be irate with my staff if they weren’t monitoring Twitter search for keywords relating to breaking news to find sources and commentary. However, these tweets and comments shouldn’t be the content of the story.

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