Iranian Foreign Minister uses twitter to break major news story

I witnessed an interesting moment on twitter recently. A moment which I think illustrates well the impact of social media on the way we produce and consume news.

Yesterday Iran and six world powers, including the US, reached an interim agreement that would for the first time roll back portions of Iran’s nuclear program.

This was a significant event for obvious reasons related to world politics, but also perhaps for a less obvious reason – how twitter is used to break major news stories.

The first word of the deal didn’t come, mediated, from a news outlet. It came directly from Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who tweeted live from negotiations.

The response to the tweet was huge with over five thousand retweets and nearly as many “favourites”. Many who retweeted noted the significance of not just the message, but of Zarif’s tweet (in the same way that Neil Armstrong’s first words upon stepping onto the surface of the moon have an independent notoriety to the moon landing itself).

I found out about this story through media critic Jay Rosen who pointed out the fact that a major world news event had just been broken, not by a reporter, but by one of the key stakeholders – something that would not have happened 20 years ago.

Many who responded to Rosen, like American playwright Pippin Parker, felt the direct connection to the source was a positive news consumption experience.

Although this trend of news stories being broken via social media isn’t anything new, I still think this is a particularly strong example of how much reach and impact twitter journalism can have.

I don’t think we should throw the baby out with the bathwater. It’s still important that we have strong traditional news outlets to maintain quality. But I think mainstream and citizen journalism can live together and personally I’m with Pippin Parker – the more news we get direct from the front line the better.

Published by Jazzua Andrews

Writer. Caffeine Enthusiast. Digital Creative. Crazy Cat Guy.

2 thoughts on “Iranian Foreign Minister uses twitter to break major news story

  1. The thing that bugs me about this is that the announcement of “an” agreement became the news. In the absence of a press conference, the media jumped on this tweet as though it is evidence of a peace to come.

    There was absolutely no detail, and it turns out that while this was a relatively important moment in Middle East politics, there is little evidence that this will be a step in any particular direction when it comes to peace.

    Israel is furious and Iran are stoked – but that’s not how the general public perceive this, courtesy of the shitty media.

    It’s mildly interesting that this was all announced on twitter, but I believe the evidence is there that this was just an Iranian PR win. The media just lapped it up.

    1. Thanks for your reply Tom. I agree with some of what you’re saying. Some media outlets, especially in America, have reported what is basically nationalistic PR. I don’t believe that would have been any different if the news of the decision had been broken in a media conference though.

      In a situation like this where there’s a lot of public interest in an event and there isn’t any formal press release/media conference, I agree the media will jump on anything they can get. In this case a tweet. That being said, every news story I read on this after the tweet and prior to any official info being released, stated prominently at the top of the page that there was no official info and that the piece was purely reporting on the tweet itself and speculating what it could mean.

      There were also articles reporting on Israel’s dissatisfaction with the deal HOURS after the original story broke. Regardless of whether the story was broken via a tweet or via a news conference I believe it would still take hours or days for all the threads of the story to play out. Like you’d know from your work at the radio, often one story on an issue will trigger a response from stakeholders with a different opinion and then other stories are written to balance it.

      I disagree with your assertion that it was only “mildly interesting” this was announced on twitter. What is and isn’t interesting is different person to person I suppose, but I would have thought the use of social media to break a major news story (whatever view is taken on the quality of the decision, the fact that there has been a decision at all IS news) in place of a traditional news channel, would be interesting to a journalism student who is studying the current landscape of the news media industry.

      The thing I disagree with most in your comment is this line:
      “Israel is furious and Iran are stoked – but that’s not how the general public perceive this, courtesy of the shitty media”

      a) The general public only has to google the term “nuclear agreement” and if they can read they will be given exactly the information you believe they’re missing. I think your view of the “general public” here is naive – the audience is more active than you give them credit for.

      b) The shitty media does some pretty fantastic work. While there might be some news outlets that reported on this in a way that left people in the dark about certain aspects of the deal, I would say the majority of the world media has responded in a thoughtful way to this. Here are some articles you might find interesting:

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