Here’s what you’ll find at my Twitter site as my latest entry: “OK, so the secret here at Twitter, what makes it cool, is bite-sized news scoops plus mini-blogging for otherwise-lazy celebs (great, huh?).” And that’s it- nice, clean, quick, all within their 140 character limit. It’s much easier than blogging because there’s already the limit there that constricts you so you’re forced to make a short, snappy statement. That’s what makes it so appealing. And as I said, for celebs on there (I follow John Cleese and Henry Rollins among others), it’s an easy way to communicate with the outside world- you probably don’t care much if I nicked myself shaving but you might if you heard the same from Snoop Dogg who’s also on there, though it’s more likely that public figures would use it for promo purposes.
So why are some people frothing over Twitter in a good way and a bad way? The boosters say that this might be the future of journalism, pointing out that some Twitter-ers (or ‘Twits’ if you like) were some of the first ones to post about the recent California earthquake. Film Critic Richard Roeper supposed used his Twitter site to break the news that he was leaving the At the Movies TV show. And Twitter fans do have a point here- if you wanna break news quickly, then typing it in there is a lot faster than writing up a full story.
As for the Twitter detractors (which included me at first), they do have some good points, though I don’t think this makes the service a demon that’s hastening the downfall of journalism (not to mention dumbing down reading and writing to its lowest level). You’d be nuts to think that 140 characters (which is less than 140 words because that includes spaces and punctuation) could possibly replace reporting about a complex story, not to mention the fact that as of now, the only graphics you can add to Twitter are your own photo (no videos either).
Just as many writers ranted about blogs signaling the end of the journo profession, the same happens with this new wrinkle. Like blogs, Twitter can help to supplement good journalism and not supplant it. Because you can add links to your Twitter post also, it can be a mini-blog where you point to a good article or provide some (very) brief commentary about it.
And after all, is Twitter any crazier or less legit than the 10 Word Review or Four Word Review (both of which I love)? Pauline Kael they ain’t but they’re still fun and also more insightful than you’d think. Their lengthier colleagues might learn a think or two from them.