Twitter vs MSM: A zero sum game?

Say, if you have just a minute or two, go read this article about Lance Armstrong's bicycle crash and broken collar bone, and then come back here. We'll wait...

*annoying tuneless whistling signifying a break in the action*

That was quick; you're a good reader, aren't you? So, did you notice anything unusual about Ciaran Giles's report?

How about the fact that it referred three times to "Twitter feeds" as the source of information about the crash?

Lance's crash came across the Twitter wire about 22 hours ago (in Twitter Time), almost simultaneously via feeds from Team Astana (@TeamAstana) and teammate Levi Leipheimer (@Levi_Leipheimer). A couple of hours later, Astana team manager Johan Bruyneel (@johanbruyneel) confirmed the nature of the injury, and The Man himself (@lancearmstrong) reported in a few hours after that, following his visit to the hospital. Since I had earlier subscribed to all of those feeds, I knew what was going on well before it hit the MSM. (I even got to hear about Lance's and Johan's evening snack together at Bruyneel's home -- cheese, crackers, and wine, complete with a photo of the wine bottle's label -- via Twitter. (OK, so that last part isn't compelling journalism, but it is real life.)

These are fascinating times from a media perspective, where the news makers are also the news reporters. Questions arise -- How do we know, for example, that anyone on Twitter is really who they claim to be? And what level of trust should we place in those reports? -- but they're not really new, just repackaged. What's new is that on-the-scene reporting can now take place with a delay of only seconds, and that reporting can completely bypass the traditional media outlets. In addition, the exclusivity of access is no longer an asset owned solely by the traditional media.

When newspapers start quoting Twitter feeds as their sources, it's a sure sign that one medium is going to flourish at the expense of the other. I'll let you guess which is which.

Update: A more informed and eloquent take on the whole issue is here; link courtesy of Deb over at Write Lightning.

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This page contains a single entry by Eric published on March 24, 2009 8:41 AM.

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