In the Age of Twitter, Audience is Becoming Journalist

Story by Justin Bailey

As a crowd of college students began to fill the caucus room at the Hinckley Institute of Politics, RadioWest host Doug Fabrizio stood at the front of the room and quietly prepared for the broadcast, sipping bottled water, going over his notes, and adjusting his microphone to the ideal distance from his mouth. As the producer audibly counted down from ten the chatter in the room slowly died down and turned to complete silence just moments before the countdown reached one. “This is RadioWest, I’m Doug Fabrizio…”
The topic of discussion for the day was “the future of journalism,” with a prominent theme being the instantaneous and pervasive nature of “new age journalism” or the use of modern technological tools such as facebook and twitter, as well as personal blogs and how those tools affect the way in which news stories and opinions are reported and disseminated.
Four panelists joined Fabrizio in the discussion: Mathew Ingram, Senior Writer at GigaOM.com; Holly Mullen, a writer and former reporter; Matthew LaPlante, a journalism instructor at Utah State University; and Holly Richardson, a member of the Utah House of Representatives and active blogger.
LaPlante had the first word, making the point that, with the Internet becoming so widely accessible, almost anyone has the ability to play the role of reporter.
“Journalists are increasingly becoming the audience and the audience is increasingly becoming journalists,” LaPlante Stated.
Rep. Richardson elaborated on the issue of roles changing by bringing up the fact that she currently acts as both journalist and legislator, a combination that she says, “never used to be.” Richardson uses her blog “Holly on the Hill” to not only report the news, but also to state her personal opinion, placing the responsibility on her readers to decide how to utilize the information.
The idea of journalistic roles shifting and changing was a recurring concept in the discussion. With the advancements in technology that provide everyone with a voice, more and more responsibility falls to the readers to filter through the ideas and information they are provided and decide what is important and what is not. “The media is all of us now” said LaPlante, “so all of a sudden, you have more opinions…more details…more facts, and more pressure.”
With the instantaneous nature of new media tools like twitter, journalists have been forced to change the way they report the news, as LaPlante stated, journalists must “Get to the information, get it quickly.” No longer can reporters sit on a story for any amount of time before breaking it, because seconds after a newsworthy event takes place someone else has already tweeted the story, dozens of others have re-tweeted it and it’s no longer relevant. “You have a 24 hour news cycle,” stated Richardson “you have (stories) that are always evolving.” Stories are no longer finite products; they have become self-sustaining narratives that don’t necessarily have a beginning or an end.
“In this age when anyone can tweet…and anyone can publish a blog or post on a facebook page,” stated Matthew Ingram, “journalists need to filter (the information) and make sense of it and then tell people… why it’s important.”

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