March 10, 2009

Daniel Schorr on Twitter and Web-based Media

Recently, National Public Radio's social media strategist Andy Carvin spent a Saturday morning with NPR's 92-year-old senior news analyst Daniel Schorr, explaining to him the ins-and-outs of Twitter, the latest Internet microblogging trend.

Carvin writes:
"There we were in the studio — Schorr, Scott Simon and I, three generations of people who each grew up with vastly different experiences when it comes to journalism and technology. When Dan filed his first story in the late 1920s — no, that's not a typo — he had to scramble to find a telephone in the neighborhood to get it to his editors, who then worked the text into something that would be read the next day by people throughout the Bronx, N.Y. Flash forward to 2009, and I'm standing on the National Mall filing from Barack Obama's inauguration using tweets and text messaging, interacting directly with people around the world in real time."

Schorr's observations are worth reading:
"It somehow reminds me... of something in ancient Greece, the agora, the marketplace. You come out and you say things at the marketplace and everyone can hear. And every person now seems to be a network."

When Carvin asked Schorr what he thinks we are losing in web-based media, Schorr replied:
"What we are losing is editing. I grew up and nothing could be communicated to the outside world that didn't go through an editor to make sure you had your facts right, spelling right and so on. Now, every person is his or her own publisher and/or her own editor or her own reporter. And the world is full of people who are sending out what they consider to be news. It may be, it may not be, it may be made up and it doesn't matter anymore. That, to me, is the worst part of this. The discipline that should go with being able to communicate is gone."

Carvin's response?
"I offered up two recent examples of breaking news stories that played out on Twitter: the attacks in Mumbai and the riots in Greece. Occasionally, you'd see stories circulating on the Internet — or even on air — that weren't necessarily true but because it was happening so fast it was hard to keep up with it. And then people on Twitter and Facebook started asking, 'Are you really sure about that? Did you see this yourself? Did you get this from a news source? Did you get this from a blog?' And so, in a way a system of checks and balances kicks into high gear with people who are just innately very skeptical — wanting to get to the heart of a matter. And sometimes stories actually get debunked that way."

Despite what he sees as drawbacks, Schorr, like a trooper, decided to try out Twitter. You can follow him at @danielschorr.

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