Reporters using Twitter to get sources aren’t lazy, they’re smart

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Photo courtesy of Joi via Flickr

Photo courtesy of Joi via Flickr

Gawker recently posted a story calling journalists who use Twitter to find sources as “lazy.” I couldn’t help but disagree. Why is employing Twitter, widely seen as a legitimate media tool, seen as a shortcut to “real” reporting?

Journalism and reporting are different beasts than they were 10, or even five years ago. While reporters previously built relationships with sources by having coffee with locals in a café or sharing a beer at a bar, they’re now relying on Twitter followers to bulk up their virtual rolodexes. Is this lazy or just resourceful? 

When an editor wants a story about a defective silly string ruining a kid’s birthday party, where does a reporter start? If the reporter can find someone with a newfound hatred for silly string using Twitter, I don’t see a problem.  A source found through Twitter isn’t any less reliable than someone found walking down the street.  If the source is vetted properly, then what’s the big deal?

It’s a cliché, but today’s news cycle moves at lightning speed. Reporters have adapted and kept pace by using social media such as Facebook and Twitter to build go-to sources in a time crunch. Of course, longer-form features deserve more in-depth research than a quick tweet but for short stories, Twitter seems like an ideal place to start.

Journalism is now inherently interactive – a direct result of the spasm of social media platforms that have emerged in the past few years. In the past, news content was directed by the editorial staff’s discretion. If an editor wanted a question asked, the reporter would ask it. Now, reporters are asking readers, not editors, what they want to read about. Is this a bad thing?

Dismissing Twitter as an illegitimate form of newsgathering reinforces the “elite media” stereotype – the erudite media tell people what to think and are disconnected from their audience. Using social media in newsgathering is an opportunity to connect directly with an audience and report stories in a manner most relevant to them.

Calling these journalists lazy is not only unfair, but it also ignores the progressively more important role social media has taken in real reporting.

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Cision's research staff makes over 20,000 media updates to Cision's Media Database each day! For more updates and other thought leadership in the industry, follow @Media_Moves.

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