Friday, November 18, 2011

Sizzle or Steak?

I consider myself a journalist first and foremost. News beats in every fiber of my being. After that, maybe a designer, maybe a writer.

I want to comment on this article a friend sent me, based on several things that happened this week.

First, the Associated Press, long our go-to news source (and yes, we newspapers paid heftily for the priviledge) chastized their reporters publicly for "Tweeting" while they were in the thick of the drama down at #OccupyWallStreet this week.

The traditional way, you see, would be for said reporter to get said news, go back to the newsroom with it (hopefully getting at least two sources for said news along the way). Give it to one's editors, and then the editors would do what they do, bending it, shaping it, making it ready for public consumption (in the case of AP, on all (paid) outlets that AP streams out on).

Twitter has changed that.

I also covered (as a journalist) the events of #OccupyWallStreet and #OccupyLA and other events in the Day of Action this week (Nov. 17). Using the social media at my disposal: mostly Twitter, also Facebook.

Twitter changed the way I process news.

I like and respect Jeremiah Owyang, and read him on Twitter and other outlets. However, in this instance, he's missing the point.

As a designer, they used to tell me: know your tools. Know which one to use for which purpose. So it is, too, with social media.

While all his comments about permanency and Twitter are valid (sure, I wish they had an archive function, or a timeline thingie like Facebook is about to have, but they don't). Permanence is not the importance of Twitter, nor is "time spent there wasted."

Twitter for me (sorry, AP) has become my primary news source. We have raised a generation of news junkies, and we want it now, and we want it fast. Twitter gives us that primacy.

Let me illustrate for you a story, of part of my week, how my "social media" life went.

I spent a good chunk of the early morning Day of Action online. I was multi-tasking between Twitter and Facebook. (I have a large contingent of friends on Facebook who still don't see the value or need for Twitter. Sadly.)

So, as the story of the day: Day of Action, mostly #OccupyWallStreet was breaking (a story, I might add, that MSM journalists were barred from covering, thanks to Bloomberg's "media blackout"), I was manning the controls. I had my news sources in action who were in the thick of things.

I was monitoring my Twitter feed. When items came across, I would cross post them (RTing them to my stream (2000 people) and posting them on my FB wall (1300+ people). Who then reposted to their streams and walls. I posted pictures, I posted video, I posted commentary. I heard when the first people got arrested, I heard when the police captain offered himself up. I was, as much as I could be, right there in the thick of it.

That's how news works today. (Several people sent me emails that day, thanking me for my coverage.)

The AP journalist KNEW that, yet was chastized for it. (It's against company policy.) If you are right there, on Wall Street, you have the news as close as your Twitter feed. That's as much as you have control of it today, because everyone around you also has a camera and access to the world.

So for me, monitoring my Twitter feed (which I do at least daily) takes the place of reading my daily newspaper. It is certainly "steak" for me on great news days, though when people are just talking about nonsense, it isn't.

I don't consider one iota of time that I spend on Twitter "wasted." I wish I could spend MORE time there. I wish I could've spent all of the Day of Action on Twitter, for example.

Owyang says: "if you Tweet more than 20 times a day, you should have just blogged."

Everyone uses these tools differently. For me, I use Facebook as a platform to get information to my friends and family. (Especially those who, for whatever reason, aren't even ON Twitter yet.) I use Twitter as a short-term news source, but also for whatever bursts of items I may want to discourse about: whatever's happening on Survivor or Dancing with the Stars, some movie or song I just experienced, etc. If it's a longer thing that warrants a blog, I'll write one. I have two blogs, in fact.

But while many people use Twitter to post links to people (I primarily use FB for that), I most frequently now ReTweet others. I follow 2000 people. I ReTweet the interesting bits for others in my stream. As far as my own posts, I probably don't do 20 in a day, but on some news-heavy days, I can be RTing 100+ times.

I also "live blog" frequently on Twitter: the Oscars, the Emmys, Survivor and its finale; or sometimes conferences that I'm at. The first few is to share a communal experience with people, the conference stuff is for people who can't get there.

It has never been (for me) about "what did I have for breakfast?" It is very much about "what am I seeing/hearing/feeling/experiencing right now?"

Owyang wants to get people over to things that make money for him. I am about documenting our social journey. For me, Twitter IS the steak. If I had to only live with ONE choice for social media, it would be Twitter, in a heartbeat.

If people want to know more deeply how I feel about an issue, they can friend me on Facebook, or read my blogs. Or listen to my podcasts. There are vehicles for everything. I think anyone who forcefully weans themselves from any social medium is an idiot. (As is anyone who still isn't anywhere on this value chain.) We are all still learning and growing with these new tools, and learning how they best work for us.

I have a friend that I had to drag, kicking and screaming, to get onto Facebook this week. He's an actor, wondering why his agent isn't calling him so much. "Are you on Twitter? Facebook?" I innocently asked him one day. Turned out, he hadn't ever even SEEN a Facebook page. (This was about a month ago.) I'm sorry, but that's inexcusable.

I mean, I suppose, if you really have a spiritual vow to be a hermit, it would be ok. But if you are living, breathing and alive in the world, it's inexcusable. Especially if your work is as an actor!!! When you are depending on casting directors to cast you. "Did you know about all the casting directors who are on Twitter?" I asked him. His face paled, he looked incredulous. "Well, no." "Huh. And have you been working a lot lately?" I continued. "Well, no."


Twitter is a news source, a job source, a living breathing hive of activity. To cut oneself off from it... you might as well be typing on an electric typewriter and watching a black/white TV.

I understand Owyang's point. There are lots more types of new software coming at us that we have to learn. But we have to put a stake in the ground with the ones we have, and realize why they are important. If you choose two social media to be on: Facebook and Twitter would be the ones right now. And you should be checking both every day.

And, if you also want to visit my blog or listen to my podcasts and give me money: hey, that's OK too! ;-)

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