Archive for category Social Media

‘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?

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Flipping exciting: the iPad Twitter magazine

By Alex Webb

I haven’t got an iPad, but, like any self-respecting Apple fan, I want one. Sorry – “I want never gets” – I would like one.

One of the reasons is this, Flipboard. It’s an app which draws all the articles, webpages and photos your friends link to on Facebook and Twitter, then automatically compiles them into an iPad-style magazine.

Obviously the downside of not having an iPad yet is that I haven’t been able to get to grips with the app first-hand. Nonetheless, some of its implications could be pretty interesting. It seems clear that it will make those who have it far more selective in whom they follow on Twitter – they will not want their Flipboard to be filled with the dross that some friends post. I do not imagine that every Twitter user will have Flipboard, but for those that do, there will surely be a polarisation of interest groups: there is no point in clogging up your Flipboard with fields in which you’re not interested, after all.

It is a pertinent paradigm of where journalism might head: a combination of the user-generated and professional journalism, crystallising what Twitter already does.

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Celebrity generated content

Katy Perry caused a storm on Twitter (photo: Michael @ NW Lens)

Emily Fairbairn

There’s a lot of scaremongering that goes on about user generated content replacing ‘real’ journalism.  With so many people doing it for free, will we all be out of a job in a few years? cry frightened journalism students. Well no, because amateurs will never have the skills, training and resources of professionals, so they will never replace them.  Kate Dubinski has written a brilliant post on the subject over at the London Free Press, and I couldn’t agree with her more.

“The stuff we’re paid to do is — in part because we’re paid to do it — as professional, accurate and removed of bias as we can possibly make it,” she argues.

“You pick up the paper, you read a story online, and you (should) know it’s been run through several filters before it got to you.  Those filters have hopefully caught typos, glaring holes in logic, bias, and all the rest of the stuff that makes you “trust” us.’

But this is not to say that user generated content is not of terrific importance in modern news-gathering. Crucially, Dubinski adds that “citizen journalists become sources for professional journalists, not necessarily competition.”

And what sources they are. As this blog has previously noted, citizen journalists are the eyes on the ground as humanity suffers earthquakes, genocide, revolution, tsunami. They are the ones who catch the police out if they overstep the mark, and they are the ones who go where the mainstream media can’t. Their videos, tweets and testimonies are gold-dust to a professional journalist,  providing detail, colour and expertise which could not come from anywhere else.

But UGC does far more than simply improve stories that old-school journalists would always have reported on anyway.  In fact, certain ‘users’ create stories by the mere act of ‘generating content’. I am of course, talking about celebs. How often do you see a story which is based entirely on what some tabloid favorite has said on Twitter?  Over at my beloved Mail Online today, you will see that the top story is ‘Katy Perry in Twitter Feud with Calvin Harris over tour‘. The journalist doesn’t even need to do any work; a quick look at Twitter sees the entire story unfolding neatly all by itself, unobstructed by secrecy or worse, PR.

And it doesn’t even need to be the content of what the celebrities are tweeting. When George Michael and Charlie Sheen joined Twitter, the mere fact that they had done so made headline news.

Social media, crowd sourcing, citizen journalism, user generated content; all are undeniably amazing sources. Far from threatening professional journalists, UGC has made their life easier. Stories are there: created, or found, by someone else. Just as citizen journalists need the mainstream media to publicise their content if it is ever to reach the masses, so the mainstream media increasingly takes its stories from UGC. It’s a two-way relationship which is mutually beneficial.

But journalists must not let UGC make them lazy. Reporting on what a famous person says on Twitter is not particularly interesting; any readers who are interested in said celebrity probably follow them anyway, so reporting two hours later on a public online exchange is basically redundant. Quoting Twitter users, many hiding behind a veil of online anonymity, is no substitute to meeting real people and talking to them (Metro I’m looking at you.) As Dubinski says, journalists are the gatekeepers, and they must select, filter and give an intelligent platform to the UGC that really needs to be seen.

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Internet in the tube: what it means for social media

Alex Webb

Tube map on an iPhone

Going underground: Now you can be wired up in the tube.

July 7th 2005 is often cited as the date when the man on the street became the news correspondent. The BBC received 22,000 e-mails and text messages about the tube and bus bombings, whilst 300 photos came flying into the organization’s e-mail inboxes.

So when it was announced this week that free public wi-fi was to be trialled at Charing Cross station, it seemed that the luddites’ last urban bastion was finally being broken down, opening up to the spleen of social media one of Londoners’ favourite gripes: the tube.
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