Social media journalism – pros and cons of Twitter

One typical use of Twitter by journalists is to dig for interview sources for breaking news. Most major news media and reporters have twitter accounts and there have been ample instances for how Twitter plays a critical role in breaking news.

Twitter is like a running river with voluminous fishes swimming by, so how could reporters find the interesting or newsworthy fishes (sources)?

Journalists now live in a world where average citizens may break news faster/earlier than the media; for instance, two separate tweets announced the death of popular singer Whitney Houston earlier than AP confirmed the news.

However, these two sources only have a few dozen followers and didn’t get much attention until after people found out they came out earlier than AP. However, the fact that these two tweets were not immediately picked up by the press speaks to a challenge for social media journalism: there has not been a viable way for reporters to identify a topic before it surfaces, or identify a useful source with few followers.

One recent development that has received some attention is a tool called SRSR (standing for “Seriously Rapid Source Review”), which, according to its developer, “would be helpful for journalists to find and assess sources in Twitter around breaking news events.” The features of this tool include “Automatically Identifying Eyewitnesses”, “Automatically Identifying User Archetypes”, and “Visually Cueing Location, Network, Entities.” The developers conducted some pilot tests with encouraging results. However, this tool still has its limitations before it can be put up for real applications.

About Mu Lin

Dr. Mu Lin is a digital journalism professional and educator in New Jersey, United States. Dr. Lin manages an online marketing company. He also manages MulinBlog Online J-School (, a free online journalism training program, which offers courses such as Audio Slideshow Storytelling; Introduction to Social Media Marketing; Writing for the Web; Google Mapping for Communicators; Introduction to Data Visualization; Introduction to Web Metrics and Google Analytics.
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