The days of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein are long gone. The iconic Washington Post journalists epitomized the art of investigative journalism when the scribes ruthlessly scrutinized the Watergate scandal, that eventually led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon. Messrs Woodward and Bernstein were perhaps the last major remnants of what journalism in its ideal form is supposed to look like; people acting as agents of change.
This may seem like a eulogy about the death of one of the world’s oldest profession, but in reality it is a brief missive on the evolution of journalism. An evolution that can succinctly be put into a single word -TWEETS!
At a very kernel level, when news breaks, it breaks on Twitter. If you think about it, before news agencies can bash out a headline prefaced with the bold lettersURGENT, before a lengthy post on Facebook and well ahead of cantankerous news anchors screaming ‘BREAKING NEWS’, a tweet is actually the ‘first responder’ when it comes to breaking news.
I first remembered being introduced to Twitter in a journalism class back in 2009. I was inundated with several Twitter feeds on tweet decks and shown how several leading journalists incessantly posted/reported on the social media site. Some tweets spoke about pertinent issues while others were random musings. But the key takeaway, was even then Twitter was already competing with Google. Click on a link posted on BBC’s twitter feed and you already bypass Google’s core search function.
Few could fathom how a brief missive of 140 characters could actually play a large let alone transformative role in the evolution of journalism. The most important change that Twitter has brought about, is that it has democratized journalism in a very important way. Newsrooms across agencies, leading publications and television channels had their blue-eyed boys. Top reporters who had cultivated trusted inside sources over many years and were the first to be rewarded the scoop. It would be brazen to say, that Twitter has eradicated such an archaic process, but what it has done is that it has leveled the playing field. When Tiger Woods was caught in a scandal, or when the White House wanted to issue a statement or if Donald Drumpf makes a rancid remark, their respective tweets are equally accessible for all. So you could be on the digital team of the Associated Press or you could be part of a four member team of a college newspaper, either ways you’ll be embedding the same tweet from @realdonalddrumpf onto your website. This isn’t to say that cultivating clandestine sources is redundant, but what has been mitigated is the single-handed advantage that some top scribes had by virtue of their proximity to such celebrity sources.
But above all, what I found most intriguing is a tweet from a user’s or organization’s verified profile is veracity enough. Once it is out there, it’s as authentic as any statement that can either enhance your credentials or instantly tarnish your reputation. You tweeted it, you said it, you have to stand by it and get ready to defend it.
A litmus test to gauge how pervasive a brand or company has been, is if it is frequently used as a verb.
So how about ‘tweeting’ this for me? #tonguerolledincheek