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Will We See Twitter-Only Reporters Soon?

“I think each sports desk could have someone solely concentrating on Twitter.” Spoken by a prominent UK sports journalist, this phrase really made me think: what if we did have Twitter-specific roles for traditional reporters? People whose sole task it would be to monitor Twitter for breaking soccer-related news, interact with soccer fans, and write tweets about soccer – all for a larger news organization.

I guess this begs the question that everyone seems to want to answer lately: is Twitter journalism?

As reported on The Drum, Henry Winter – one of the most reputable sports journalists in the UK and a man with a 100,000+ Twitter following – has said that newspapers might want to consider making a Twitter-only role for a journalist to fill.

He explained that people had a thirst for instant football (or soccer, for us across the pond) news, and that Twitter was the perfect venue to reach out to this audience. He himself uses Twitter not only to report live from matches and engage with fans, but as a crowdsourcing editor of sorts:

“The great thing about Twitter is the instant feedback. The first draft of my match report goes live online within minutes of the final whistle and straight away people tell me if I’ve made a mistake. I might look at it and think, this is actually a bigger story for Manchester City fans than I realised.”

His prediction that sports desks bring on Twitter-specific employees might not be that far off the mark, and it might even extend well beyond sports.

Anything that happens in real-time (and isn’t that, well, everything?) could potentially benefit from an on-the-ground, to-the-minute report. And what better venue for this than Twitter? Many newspapers are already sending their reporters to key events in order to “live blog” them on Twitter, so it’s really only a small step to creating a permanent position.

Twitter lends itself to live coverage events for several reasons. One, it’s instant: a tweet is seen by an account’s followers the second it is sent out. Two, it’s searchable: you can use hashtags and an archiving service to record all of your live tweets for posterity and to easily find them in the future. And three, it’s made for mobile.

Now, the question remains as to whether journalism would actually benefit from the kind of instant communication that Twitter-only journalists would create. Some might argue that the job of the journalist is not to provide unfiltered descriptions of events, but rather to be the “gatekeepers” of the news, filtering in and out events each day to inform the public of what they need to know. This is a delicate job, and I could definitely see some information overload happening if journalists suddenly began reporting via Twitter about every little move the President made – it would give a sense of urgency to events that perhaps don’t deserve that urgency.

Still, I think there is a place for more focused Twitter journalism going forward. It can’t stand on its own, but when incorporated into an outlet that also has editorials, article-length reports and balanced assessments of the topic at hand, Twitter-based reporting could enrich the news experience.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Winter’s prediction came true sooner rather than later. I just wonder which major news outlet will be the first to take the plunge and hire a Twitter journalist.

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