It seems that these days you can’t move for negative press coverage of Twitter, newspapers love to paint it as a haven of banality where people can reveal every detail of their pointless existence (of course, when columnists do it, it’s different somehow). They seem to thrive on sneering at it and at anyone who uses Twitter on a daily basis, it’s pretty transparent - they are crapping their pants.
For years now, old media has had the monopoly on news and comment. Even since the days of the internet, people have still gone to the good ol’ solid reliable traditional media outlets for their news, even if it is just their websites. They could ignore (or even buy into) the worlds of MySpace and Facebook because they are walled gardens where friends talk amongst friends and generally don’t talk about much of importance.
Twitter, however, is different. The walls that were there in the old days have been removed (thanks to both Twitter’s amazing API and search) and people don’t just follow the people they know in real life (in fact, I can count on the fingers of one hand the people I follow on Twitter who I knew before I started using it). Twitter is a great sounding board - people can fire off opinions about events as they happen, and even in the case of the Mumbai terrorist attacks and the Denver plane crash, be on the scene before print and TV journalists have had time to put their coats on. And the audience is potentially global.
This amount of eyeballs is gold dust to old school journos, and this is why they fear Twitter so much. Instead of engaging with it, they revert to the language of the playground, name calling and smearing until they’re blue in the face. The desperation is palpable.
However, not all journalists are like this, some, like @paulbradshaw and @joannageary actively engage with Twitter and see its power. @charltonbrooker (A.K.A. Charlie Brooker, who, amongst other great things, writes a couple of columns for the Guardian) has been experimenting with Twitter, gathering opinions from Twitter users to use in his columns and posting ‘teaser’ content.
These are just a few examples of journalists who are going in the right direction, there are loads more bright, intelligent, switched on media types who are seeing Twitter and other new web tools as an opportunity, not a threat. If the nay sayers carry on deriding Twitter and claiming to see it as an irrelevance, they’re going to be the ones who effectively sign their own P45s.