Twitter’s Role in Sports, Journalism and Revolution?

Are you Tweeting?

Every day seems to bring a new story about some aspect of this (comparatively) new format but increasingly influential vehicle to share information.

Today saw Sir Alex Ferguson weigh in about Manchester United’s measures to restrict its players’ tweeting.

This is by no means the first time Twitter has been an issue among athletes.

In the week after Osama bin Laden was killed, Steelers standout running back Rashaad Mendenhall tweeted, among other things, “What kind of person celebrates death? It’s amazing how people can HATE a man they have never even heard speak. We’ve only heard one side…”

This and some of his other tweets ended up costing Mendenhall an endorsement and raised anew concerns from owners about the social price they pay for their employees’ free expression.  In the past, tweets during the halftime of games have led to NBA player Charlie Villanueva being reprimanded by Milwaukee Bucks management.

Meanwhile, tweeting has become an integral part of reporting, according to Neal Mann of Sky News.  He writes in this piece that he actively follows 2,000 sources on Twitter, not just receiving information but interacting with it, too.

Mann concludes that Ultimately, this has led to a point where journalists need social media as much as social media needs journalists; people want news fast but they want to know what’s true and what’s rumour. The days of a journalist just being a face on a TV screen, voice on the radio, or a name on the page, have ended: we now have to be a part of the conversation.

Mann’s acceptance of the changed role and activities of a journalist is not universal.  A survey released of nearly 500 journalists in 15 countries found that a majority of journalists don’t use Twitter for story sources.

For myself, I’m still learning how to Tweet and to learn how to drink from the proverbial firehose of information that is constantly being sprayed throughout the Internet.

My perspective is that journalists who are not keeping up with what is being Tweeted are just going to be left behind the flow and transmission of information that is so critical to what we do, that had previously been the more exclusive domain of journalists , but that more and more often has been done effectively by others.

Like in the Middle East.

The ongoing upheavals of the Arab Spring in many cases have been organized through the use of social networks like Twitter and Facebook.   Unsurprisingly, cultural arbiter Malcolm Gladwell has taken a contrarian position on this issue, saying that social networks have not contributed that much to the changes that are raging through the region.

I’m not convinced.

There has been ample evidence and coverage of how the initial revolution in Egypt was planned and executed online months, if not years, in advance, and how other leaders in Yemen and other countries have done the same.

How do you use Twitter?  Is it here to stay?  What is your opinion about the role Twitter has played in these different arenas?


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