Turning inner space into outer space

December 12, 2011

News organizations maintain traditions on Twitter

Twitter is indeed new media, but new organizations are using it in a decidedly old media kind of way. Take the following:

“President Obama says U.S. has asked Iran to return downed surveillance drone.”

If you guessed that I culled that item from Twitter, you would be right — and wrong. I actually found it on QuickWire, a computer program used by many newspapers to bring in articles from various news services.

In this case, it came in as a NewsAlert from The Canadian Press. But I did a check on The Canadian Press Twitter feed and, sure enough, the exact same alert appeared.

Newspapers have been subscribing to wire services for decades. It’s an efficient way to get national and world news that many papers could not afford to get if they had to pay their own staff to do it.

Alerts and bulletins have arrived in newsrooms by all means of technology, using whatever was the highest tech available at the time. I suspect that even if a news alert came in by word of mouth, it wouldn’t have been much different from the alerts we get today — short and to the point, with the implied promise of details later.

Now let’s have a look at another one:

“Senior raises snow-removal concerns”

As it turns out, that is a front-page teaser from a newspaper. The only thing missing is the page number.

You could just as easily have seen something similar on Twitter. But instead of a page number, there would have been a link to the article on a website. Just as teasers try to draw readers inside the newspaper, tweets aim to pull readers into news sites.

For many news organizations, the old standbys — alerts and teasers — make up the bulk of what goes on Twitter. Is it a case of old habits dying hard? Or are we simply sticking with the tried and true?

I’d like to think we could go beyond teasers and alerts, and use new media in more of a new media way. I’ll explore this in a later article.