‘If people knew about Twitter, there’d be no need for newspapers’ – UCL protest online guru, Jess Riches.

By Alex Webb

Twenty-year-old Jessica Riches is the voice behind @ucloccupation, the Twitter account which served as the voice for students occupying the University College London campus in protest at the surge in student fees. The account garnered more than 5,000 followers, and the second-year English student has since been hailed by the Guardian as a “Twitter guru” and addressed conferences on how to use Twitter.

Jessica Riches

In this interview, she explains how she fell into the role, how Twitter was used to report events first-hand and what role it can play in influencing opinion. She also recalls how she nearly had a breakdown when, mid-occupation, the main account was hacked by opponents and prank messages were posted.

Did you start with any sort of strategy?

Did you feel a lot of pressure? (Jess tells how a mistake she made led to the decision of the NUS President Aaron Porter to resign)

What sort of influence does Twitter have?

How much more reliable actually is Twitter as a primary news source?

What tools did you use?

Who contributed to UCL Occupation’s Twitter and blog?

What was the aim of the tweets and online presence?

Have you become more professional?

Should tweets be personal, even for a big corporation or media outlet?

Jess recalls how she felt on the verge of collapse when the UCL Occupation Twitter account got hacked by opponents:

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