Journalism Judgment In A Twitter World

Context.

In the world of 140-characters on Twitter, context can be a missing element.

Come on people. If you didn’t get the sarcasm that’s on you. 

I shouldn’t have to explain my sarcasm on Twitter. Get with it people.  

Can’t you people take a joke? 

Journalists, bloggers, and others working in media have made those statements on Twitter over the years.

Toward fans.

***

Do you understand Twitter? Do you understand how people use it?

How I use Twitter is vastly different from the next person. Many in journalism circles use it as a news feed. Others use it as a communication tool as part of their business (brand) strategy. Some use it to simply connect with their friends. Still more use it to find those who have similar interests (i.e. shared favorite tv shows, team, etc…). I’m a collection of all of the above. Mostly sports news mixed in with a bit of non-sports news and minimal personal information. That’s not the same for everyone.

As Twitter has grown, so has the idea of journalist branding. Particularly in sports media. Twitter is a broadcasting tool for journalists. Broadcasting one’s own content or opinions can be the norm. Now more than ever it’s about the clicks.  The more popular you are (followers) on Twitter, the more traffic you drive to your publication’s site. Gain followers – generate clicks. Gain followers by sharing your opinion…especially controversial or sarcastic ones.  It’s as if the thought process for some media is, “I have an opinion or a joke about this story. I need to share it on Twitter. My followers need to know it.”

It’s along that line of thinking that this tweet resonated with me recently.

[tweet https://twitter.com/AlanShipnuck/status/491286070458216448 align=’center’]

Is this statement true? Is everything we do “judged the same” in the online world? Is what we post on Twitter judged the same way as a blog or a video post? Can you tell the same thing about someone in 140-characters as you can a 1,000 word article? Perhaps we should ask Chris Kluwe (reference: his Deadspin article).

  • Chris Kluwe can’t be moral crusader after Twitter rant – CBS Sports
  • Chris Kluwe is both a hero and a hypocrite – Bleacher Report

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gavelBy Brian Turner (Flickr: My Trusty Gavel) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Are we judged the same on all outlets? Or, does Twitter, with its 140-character limit, have its own set of rules in today’s journalism? Needing perspective, I corresponded with a Twitter-friend who has worked in both media and social media. Tom Buchheim is the Lead Content Strategist for American Family Insurance. He was also involved in television broadcasting for several years. I asked Tom a series of questions on the topic of journalism and social media.

Can we be judged the same everywhere? Is it that black-and-white of an issue? 
 
“In this context, I think journalists seeking legitimacy should expect similar reactions across platforms and mediums. A reader is a reader. A fan is a fan. A hater is a hater. You can qualify opinions much easier in a column/blog post. It’s much more difficult and subjective in 140 characters (or less).
 
That being said, at some point, your personal brand becomes what people see, and if you’re consistently trying to be sarcastic or funny via social media, then people begin to expect it.”
 
Tom went on to say that there are certain sites he reads, not for their feature stories but for “their clever use of social media, their capture-the-moment-perfectly tweets and snarky approach to sports”. As Tom told me, “We have a superficial relationship, and I’m OK with that. “

On Whitlock’s tweet that SI’s Alan Shipnuck replied to

“To Whitlock’s credit, he’s being transparent enough in admitting his account is pure folly. My problem is it diminishes his serious writing/columns/reporting. It’s so “out there” that it’s off-brand for what I expect him to say, especially as someone whom I enjoyed hearing from weekly when he was on “Sports Reporters.””

Does personal branding supplant old-school journalism now? 

“I hope personal branding never supplants old-school journalism. There’s a place for personal branding — especially in sports — but we have enough loud-mouths out there. Earn your stripes through good reporting. I expect more — and I think others do, too — of journalists, no matter where they’re sharing opinions. To me, your work should be the showcase piece for your personal branding. But I understand how buzz and getting more readers, followers, etc. works.  know of friends in TV news who are under constant pressure to grow and engage more and more in social media. It’s harder to do that by just sharing really good content — unfortunately. We’re a headline-grabbing society with news cycles that last hours instead of days. That makes me sad for journalism. For old-school journalism.”

Context on Twitter

If you’re trying to be funny, someone will misinterpret the tweet. So then it’s probably not funny, right? Or you’re just not funny. Humor is hard. Big brands struggle — and usually fail miserably — with humor in social media, because it’s so subjective. We’re also a very skeptical society, even more so in social media. Twitter will see blood any time there’s a chance to knock someone down, especially sports writers or other journalists attempting humor. Or big brands.

***

FINAL THOUGHTS: First, my thanks to Tom Buchheim for providing his perspective for this post. 

Second, Twitter is what you make of it. That’s been my belief for a long time. If you don’t like what someone tweets, don’t follow them. Simple, right?

There are very prominent media members, well-respected, that are quite popular on Twitter. Early on, I followed them. I found them to be arrogant, condescending and egotistical. They questioned fans who questioned them no matter how right the fans were. Now that I look back on it, to use a popular term, they “bullied” with words and dismissed fans who disagreed with them. I unfollowed them. I moved them to a Twitter List because they were great writers and I wanted to read their articles. Eventually, that wasn’t enough to keep me connected to them. I removed them from my Lists altogether.

Simple.

But, should I have to?

Well, that’s the beauty and curse of Twitter. Twitter allows you access to people who were not previously accessible. Depending on how much journalists filter themselves, Twitter allows for a peek into who they truly are. Personality, political and religious beliefs, even their favorite restaurants (think FourSquare check-ins and food pictures) can all be seen through the eyes of Twitter. That’s not always the case in their writing, unless they are a columnist. Columnists are paid to provide their opinion. 

In print, at least.

On Twitter, everyone can be a columnist, providing their 140-character opinions. Not always in proper context. It’s up to the user to decide how to interpret and convey their opinion to others. We’re all different in our personalities so why is that we should interpret one’s writing and tweets the same way. We don’t. And we won’t until someone creates that sarcasm font I keep calling for (sarcasm). 

As quickly as a tweet is written, that’s how quickly a judgment is made. With an article or blog post, the reader has time to fully grasp the context of what the writer is trying to say on a subject. I should say, “more words” not “more time”.  Like Tom said, “your work should be the showcase piece for your personal branding“. That doesn’t mean that comes through in only 140-characters. 

At least, that’s my “judgment” on the issue. 

***

CadChica Sports

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One comment on “Journalism Judgment In A Twitter World

  1. Chris Syme says:

    Twitter gives us a peek behind the curtain, but we’re not always going to like what we see. Part and parcel.

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