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Twitter a Hot Topic at mb’s ‘Journalists and Social Media’ Panel

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From left: NPR’s Andy Carvin juggles devices for Twittering from the stage last night while addressing social media for journalists with fellow panelists Shirley Brady of BusinessWeek.com, PressThink’s Jay Rosen, and Rachel Sklar of Abrams Research and The Daily Beast.

Armed with Blackberries, cameras, and computers, the Twitterati and those seeking to break in flocked to last night’s Journalism and Social Media Panel at Tribeca Cinemas. Media types in the audience at the mediabistro.com-hosted event listened to journalists discuss that 140-character wonder of new media, Twitter. An informal audience poll showed that most were familiar with the microblogging platform, while nearly half were registered on the site. The event’s golden child remained at the heart of the conversation as panelists explored its current uses and its future practices. “Twitter is really the conversation that never ends,” said Andy Carvin (@acarvin)of NPR, who like fellow panelist Rachel Sklar (@rachelsklar) of Abrams Research and The Daily Beast, even managed to Twitter from the stage while discussing the medium.

The conversation kicked off with PressThink’s Jay Rosen (@jayrosen_nyu) citing Marx’s definition of revolution in reference to social media: “The means of production have changed hands in publication… It’s an open source revolution,” he said. Continuing the metaphor, Sklar quipped, “Sometimes revolutions swing a little too far,” and the panel concurred, citing mob mentality and a lack of respect for production as some social media trouble spots.

Echoing the question reverberating around conference tables across the country, the evening’s big x-factor was how to monetize the social media mechanism to bring in cash. Originally directed at Rosen, the question engendered a delayed response. His silence made people brace themselves for his answer. “Well, this is the question people ask,” he joked, to uncomfortable audience laughter. Collectively, the panel agreed that it envisioned more possibilities than disappointments in a new world of news fueled by social media.

More social media insights and video from the event, after the jump…


“Twitter saved my life,” Sklar told the audience of more than 80, referring to its availability as an outlet after she left Huffington Post (where she penned “Eat The Press”) and was without a blog where she could share her media-related observations and thoughts. Other key uses for the service, per the panel? Utilizing it as a distribution network to amplify a user’s reach while satisfying that pesky urge to share. Information is not only thrown out into the tangled mess that is the Web, but extracted via Twitter. For his part, Rosen said he uses Twitter’s link-filled content as a “giant tipster network.”

When asked what their favorite social networks were, the panel unanimously agreed theirs was Twitter. BusinessWeek.com’s Shirley Brady (@shirleybrady) went so far as to call herself “the Twitter whore on staff.” (We can see that emblazoned on the back of a t-shirt.) Yet the panelists stressed the importance of using other types of social media. “Everyone’s dancing as fast as they can across all these platforms,” Brady commented. Stories are given legs by using a variety of networks, and if the combination is just right, it appears on thousands of computer screens.

The overwhelming flow of information, crap, or junk cannot be stemmed, Rosen noted. “The way to make yourself valuable on the Web is: you edit the fucking Web,” he emphasized, sending smiles across the crowd’s faces. Journalists should serve as intelligent filters and middlemen if they hope to keep their jobs, Rosen added.

Another agreement of the panel’s that might get the Twitter team, currently facing its own monetization questions, smiling: They would be willing to pay for the convenience of Twitter or other social networking sites. “I could think of lots of things I would pay for,” Rosen said, nodding vigorously. The big papers are not interested in covering smaller issues, but if an institution can reach far down enough to touch a need, it has struck gold, he pointed out, and gold can pay the rent.

Paulina Reso

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