That sound you heard was a few thousand reporters shitting bricks of varying volumes, and it gets louder by the day with each Tweet. Literalized, it would sound something like a someone throwing a boulder the size of a small child into a calm river. The Tweets and Twitterers are coming for your jobs, journalists.
Not that many seasoned journalists don’t already already use Twitter to cadge most of their stories and hit up sources; they absolutely do. But making it a requirement? It’s happening. And guess who it’s starting with?
Sky News is installing Twitter software across its journalists’ computers, as part of plans to encourage more use of social media for newsgathering and reporting. The TweetDeck application, which allows users to browse multiple Twitter accounts or searches, will be on all staff machines within a month, Julian March, executive producer, Sky News Online, told Journalism.co.uk.
Yeah, Sky News. Which is owned by Rupert Murdoch. Who now controls the Wall Street Journal. Who wants to kill the New York Times. Expect this to become a thing. Also notable is the Society of Professional Journalists releasing a Digital Media Handbook with an entire section devoted to social media. Then there’s Felix Salmon — the widely-read Reuters media columnist — who recently told The Atlantic that Twitter is a part of his essential daily routine.
Again, this isn’t news or about to surprise anyone, even those at traditional news outlets still trying to catch up to a media landscape whose shift they’ve formally resisted for years. But a proper mandate of having an online “presence” and/or “identity” has only been, for most places, casual in the most strict instances. What happens when journalists and reporters start getting evaluated based on how many retweets or mentions they receive?
Well, people who have no idea how to use Twitter or what to use it for — of which, there are many — will have to learn it in a trial-by-fire fashion. And — like man discovering fire — this is bound to produce hysterical results and some pretty great burn marks. At the very least, Cranky Peter Kaplan’s reach will have exponentially wider potential. Worse things have happened.