Day two: Live-tweeting

There was a lot of live-tweeting going on today in Edinburgh from the city council’s meeting regarding its tram project. Live-tweeting is, in my view anyway, a new-ish way of telling stories, so why not make that today’s post.

To see live-tweeting in action, click here on the #EdinburghTrams hashtag.

I’ve heard some print reporters complaining about live-tweeting. They grumble that it’s not really journalism. I’d argue that it’s reporting, just in a different way. Sure it’s easier, anyone can do it and sometimes results in errors being retweeted. But done skillfully and carefully, it can define a story – hours ahead of a prehistoric print deadline.

Livetweeting is a bit like Marmite. You either love it or hate it. I used to hate Marmite, but recently I found Bovril and, applied in the right way, found that it’s yummy on toast. Similarly, I used to hate livetweeting, because the majority of it – that I could see anyway – involved folk giving us updates on Dr Who or The Apprentice.

But then, as with the Bovirl, I saw it applied in a different way when I started following more newsy people on Twitter.

For example, Paul Lewis of the Guardian more than doubled his number of followers while live tweeting each night from the recent rioting in London. As he wondered the streets, darting between flashpoints, you could sense the tension of the situation and the vulnerability of a reporter in the midst of it all. Although he couldn’t be everywhere at once, his first hand accounts of small elements painted a big picture of one of the news events of the year.

While lots of people were tweeting from the England riots, another of this year’s huge news stories was initially only covered on Twitter by one person, who was initially unaware of how big the story was. It began as a complaint about helicopter noise. Over the next dozen or so tweets about explosions and gunfire, it didn’t take long for Sohaib Athar, an IT consultant staying in Abbottabad, to realise he had been live-tweeting a major event – the attack which killed Osama Bin Laden.

Below is a link to a Storify (mentioned in yesterday’s post) which shows you Athar’s tweets about the attack.

[View the story “Sohaib Athar” on Storify]

To say why you love or hate live-tweeting, feel free to comment below. If anyone votes I’ll stick the poll results up in a week. 

  1. anita sharkey said:

    Interesting but I think the purpose and use of twitter is central to your blog. Twitter is a social networking site, it is not journalism. Yes if you follow journalists you will read more “news” tweets. But live tweets allow users to flirt around the periphery of bigger issues, users tweeting about a telly show or following someone tweeting from the epicentre of a riot are doing so for the same reason…its popular. What happened in Egypt was unique. (Revolutions happen and are not televised) Live tweeting is what it Is, just be careful what judgements we make and make sure we continue to read, research and think for ourselves.

    Good blog, thanks for stimulating.

  2. We were live tweeting from the City of Edinburgh Council meeting which you mentioned and we agree that it is reporting on events and a modern form of journalism.

    But while we are lovers of Twitter, we think it is actually more interesting and effective to liveblog (which we were also doing from the same council meeting)…..there are then no limits on the number of characters you can use in each comment, and also you can incorporate other people’s tweets within the timeline. We had set our liveblog up to include anyone and everyone’s tweets where certain hashtags were used – #edincouncil #edinburghcouncil and #edinburghtrams.

    We understand from STVEdinburgh though that they manually and individually approve each tweet before it is included in the timeline of their liveblog, which is an interesting form of editing.

    We update our Liveblog itself from a mobile phone and use that more than sending out Tweets. At least that way the context is set within a framework, and individual comments cannot not taken out of context just so easily….perhaps something that a tweet might be.

  3. CG said:

    I whole heartedly disagree with Anita – rules on the use of Twitter – no thanks. Twitter is what you want to make it.

    If you choose to make it a social network, great – but equally it can be used as a DM portal for discreet messaging, a publishing platform for weather, news, traffic… and I’m sure countless others.

    Just because Ikea make an elegant door handle doesn’t stop you from making it a great looking coat hanger – I wouldn’t get too hung up on rules – by all means follow the majority, you’ll be more successful but be careful, you could be missing a trick by not applying some creative thought.

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