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.
We have reached an agreement.
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) November 24, 2013
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).
This tweet will be printed in history books. RT @JZarif We have reached an agreement.
— Andrew Katz (@katz) November 24, 2013
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.
We may be taking this tweet a little bit for granted. https://t.co/5Pd6x106mW Not the news. The fact that communication works this way now.
— Jay Rosen (@jayrosen_nyu) November 24, 2013
Many who responded to Rosen, like American playwright Pippin Parker, felt the direct connection to the source was a positive news consumption experience.
@jayrosen_nyu I was weirdly moved+excited to get that Tweet last night. Both the succinct wording AND receiving it from a primary source.
— Pippin Parker (@NSD_Director) November 24, 2013
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.