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I Studied How Journalists Used Twitter for Two Years. Here’s What I Learned

From Alecia Swasy, writing for Poynter:

Twitter reflects the good, the bad and just plain ugly reality of social media these days. For academics, journalists and voters, there’s never been a more crucial time to talk about the impact these social media platforms have on factual journalism and being watchdogs of the powerful.

It’s in vogue to attack the messenger for the message. We are called liars. We are called “nasty people.” We are told to shut up.

So, what else is new? What administration has loved the press? Washington Post editor Marty Baron recently told the Code Media conference: “We’re not at war with the administration, we’re at work. We’re doing our jobs.”

We work to get the facts. And as academics, we work to teach future journalists the key principles of news gathering. With the advent of Twitter and other social media, it’s important to teach critical thinking so all can ask: Who is setting the news agenda?

I didn’t set out to become a Twitter scholar. Indeed, I made fun of it like most journalists did when it was launched in 2006. I warned my students about the danger of bogus information spreading through these new platforms. But grad school is full of surprises and I found myself on a team partnered with metro papers to measure readers’ reactions during each of the 2012 presidential debates.

It was comforting to see how citizens picked up on the same topics as the journalists in the room. When Mitt Romney said he would cut spending to PBS, the Big Bird tweets went off the charts.

By election night, we all watched as Tom Brokaw came back from a commercial break and apologized for an earlier remark. He likened voters to schizophrenics. A viewer quickly tweeted that he shouldn’t make light of a serious illness.

To read the rest, click here.



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