Update: Score a big victory for Tweeps everywhere, who have succeeded in getting Twitter to delay maintenance that would have shut down communication out of Iran for at least an hour.
Almost 2 years ago, political innovator Joe Trippi tried to explain to me what the hell Twitter was, and why it was going to be “the new MySpace.” Although I had no frakkin’ idea what he was talking about, I signed up anyway. The guy never steered me wrong before.
Almost a year after that, I began to see the possibilities, and now, I routinely sign off of Twitter with a mock prayer in memory of MySpace. Twitter as a viral watercooler (that sounds gross) has, indeed, revolutionized social media with the unlikely combination of old-school elements like the telegraph and the party line.
Now, it looks like Twitter has revolutionized journalism.
With the Iranian government jamming cell phones and text messages and blocking access to many social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter has emerged as one of the mediums with the most information being passed around and discussed about the turbulent presidential election.
In addition to being a source of news, a double-edged sword that I’ll get to later, the Twitter community has protested, loudly, the lack of network coverage of the Iranian unrest. Some Tweeps astutely noted that economics played a huge part in this, as news organizations have been cutting costs by shuttering bureaus for decades. A reversal of that trend would be revolutionary, indeed.
Via Twitter, photos and videos of the killing in Iran have been disseminated where traditional media have been unable. That’s called competition, something the news networks might just respond to.
The peril, if there is one, is the reliability of the information, something I’m sure traditional journalists will point to. In this case, I say that since the Iranian government is blocking information about their repression, they are forcing us to believe what we get until we learn otherwise. There’s little risk in this, whereas the consequences of disbelief are unacceptable.
The other great thing about Twitter is that it’s a 2-way conduit. Prominent journalists like Jake Tapper are engaged with the Twitter community, and so get a direct connection with the information, which they can then follow up on. Twitter can act as a reconnaissance patrol for big media. All they have to do is put their ears to the ground.