Can Twitter influence press behavior?

By Steve Outing

Lately, NYU journalism professor and Pressthink blogger Jay Rosen has been urging his Twitter followers (more than 1,600 of them) to point out examples of reporters “growing a spine” when it comes to pointing out and documenting untruths by the McCain presidential campaign.

He’s asking Twitter users to include #spinewatch in their tweets along with links to such coverage. Here are a couple examples of such stories from Rosen: McCain on the spot as Palin defends earmarks requestsWheels come off Straight Talk Express?

Lots of journalists follow Rosen, and if those people take his advice, their Twitter followers will see their #spinewatch posts, too. The meme will spread.

Do you think this could have an impact? Could it actually influence reporters to tread less lightly on campaign lies and aggressively report them?

Absolutely, I believe it can.

Online social communities built around niches can be quite effective in forcing changes. While Twitter isn’t a niche social service, the networks that build up around individuals tend to be niches; ergo, Rosen’s followers includes hundreds of reporters, editors, academics, and the media “elite.” When that group gets to talking amongst themselves about important issues, social change within the group is possible.

This power of niche online communities was first demonstrated to me 17 years ago (or thereabouts), when I was graphics editor at the San Francisco Chronicle. I used Compuserve, the old proprietary online service, and there was a “forum” on it just for newspaper graphics folks. it’s so long ago that I can’t remember the specific issue, but I was annoyed by a policy of the Associated Press graphics department, which fed us syndicated infographics. I griped about it and a discussion with my co-horts around the U.S. ensued, with others sharing my complaint.

It wasn’t long before the director of AP Graphics chimed in and agreed to change the policy, based on our online group gripe session.

That was my introduction to the power of online community. I think that it can be demonstrated here on a much larger issue with Rosen’s #spinewatch initiative.

And it looks like I’m not the only one who thinks so…

(Addendum: Hmmm. I’m already thinking I may have to reconsider my optimism for this specific attempt at using social media for influence. It may still work, but already some folks with Twitter accounts who take issue with the goal of #spinewatch are starting to use the tag to post disinformation and disrupt the intent of the effort. You might call these people political spammers, since they invade channels with unwanted information.)

Author: Steve Outing Media futurist | Digital-media/news innovator | Journalist | Online-news pioneer | Consultant | Blogger | Writer | Researcher | Author | Speaker | Educator

11 Responses to "Can Twitter influence press behavior?"

  1. david
    david 6 years ago .Reply

    examples of reporters “growing a spine” when it comes to pointing out and documenting untruths by the McCain presidential campaign.

    Wonder if his “growing a spine” applies to “documenting untruths” by the Obama presidential campaign, too.

  2. treespotter
    treespotter 6 years ago .Reply

    I just started playing around with twitter, and i found for the first time, a platform that reach me everywhere.

    Thinking along similar line – finding the one message that will go through all the medium and still maintaining its true characteristics to immediate change: PORN.

    You’ll let us know how it progresses, i hope?

  3. camccune
    camccune 6 years ago .Reply

    It goes both ways, David. But right now most of the misrepresentations of fact, outright lies, and attempts to distract us from the real issues facing this nation are coming from the McCain camp.

    For example, in spite of her (and McCain’s) repeated statements to the contrary, Palin avidly pursued federal earmarks for the “bridge to nowhere.” She finally approved the cancellation of that project…but only after it became a major political liability as a national symbol of pigs feeding at the federal trough. And even after the project was canceled, she kept the money — our tax dollars! These are not the actions of a reformer.

  4. [...] Can Twitter influence press behavior? [...]

  5. Kevin Gregory
    Kevin Gregory 6 years ago .Reply

    Steve – has anybody asked professor Rosen if he’s interested in “documented untruths” from the Obama campaign?

  6. Evil Pundit
    Evil Pundit 6 years ago .Reply

    This is just one more example of the pro-Obama bias that permeates the liberal media.

    Why aren’t they seeking to document untruths from *both* campaigns?

    No wonder voters don’t trust journalists.

  7. amanda
    amanda 6 years ago .Reply

    I am pretty firmly grounded in my personal support for Obama. So I’m not saying this because I’m bitter that my candidate is getting beaten up:
    this is surprisingly partisan coming from a journalism professor.

  8. amanda
    amanda 6 years ago .Reply

    My other question, though, is about whether this shows the power of Twitter or of Jay Rosen?

  9. [...] the Spinewatch meme. Use the #spinewatch tag on Twitter, or on other social bookmarking services. (Steve Outing has a great post on using Twitter for spinewatch, although he ends with a caution on using open systems, because [...]

  10. [...] the Spinewatch meme. Use the #spinewatch tag on Twitter, or on other social bookmarking services. (Steve Outing has a great post on using Twitter for spinewatch, although he ends with a caution on using open systems, because [...]

  11. John Beasley
    John Beasley 5 years ago .Reply

    TwitterOnTheRun is an automated self-sustaining TWITTER program that follows Tweeters who are interested in what you are interested in on TWITTER. You tell the program which Tweeters are already talking about what you are about, and it follows for you just like the specified Tweeter follows. When you follow Tweeters who have common interests with you on TWITTER, they are highly likely to follow you back. Then you can get your message out to all of them with one simple tweet or more tweets, if you choose!

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