Mark this down as a Great Moment in Journalism: Kashmir Hill, a writer at Forbes.com, has just written a blog post in which she exclusively quotes source’s Twitter feeds, rather than using traditional quotes obtained by contacting sources directly.
The post, funny enough, is an analysis of a recent Wall Street Journal article that charges Facebook with transmitting its users’ personal information to advertisers and Internet tracking companies. (Side note: this is news, still?) Hill examines the Twitter streams of several tech experts and media types, noting how they reacted to the WSJ piece via Twitter. Here’s a typical paragraph:
“WSJ continues its war against the internet,” tweeted media commentator and journalism professor Jeff Jarvis. He cheekily noted that the Wall Street Journal does not mention that MySpace, owned like the WSJ by Rupert Murdoch’s NewsCorp, has the same issue. “WSJ Facebook slam makes no mention of its competitor, MySpace.”
This, of course, isn’t the first time that a reputable news source has turned to Twitter for quotes. Still, it’s strange to see an article that uses tweets exclusively; the post looks a lot more like aggregation than journalism.
Some of the sources Hill quoted have also expressed reservations about her reporting style—using their Twitter pages, of course. NYU journalism professor Adam Penenberg (and author of Viral Loop) for example, tweeted that using Twitter posts rather than quotes “could lead to minor ethical conundrums,” since a reporter can do so without contacting her sources directly.
Naturally, Hill tweeted her own response to Penenberg four minutes later: “I see someone’s Twitter page as a little series of public releases/statements, if they’re not tweeting from a private account.”
When we contacted Penenberg for comment, though, he sounded a lot more positive about Hill’s Twitter-centric methods. “Twitter is a public venue, so using tweets in lieu of quotes worked, especially since she wove them into the story so effectively,” he said.
“The danger would be missing the context of a tweet or tweets, or mischaracterizing the spirit in which they were intended. But she didn’t do that. At any rate, I am all for pushing the boundaries of the art, and this an interesting way to express the views of sources while on a tight deadline. That means it’s inevitable, and I expect Mediaite will be doing some of this real soon.”
Point taken, Professor.
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