Is Immediacy (re Twitter and Blogging) a Good Thing for Writers?

on February 27, 2009 in Blogging, Marketing & PR

Anyone can publish anything at any time on a blog or microblogging service, like Twitter. But does the fact that you can publish immediately mean that you should? Personally, I think the answer to that question is a resounding "NO."

I'd like to share some thoughts on the immediacy issue today as it might apply to journalism and get some of your own feedback. The example I'm going to give stems from a recent conversation with friend and colleague Judy Gombita of PR Conversations, and specifically deals with the issue of people live-tweeting through events like conferences and whether or not that's more valuable than a journalist doing a later story on the same event.

The Example

Here's the backdrop as simply as I can put it. We have Person A who was speaking at a conference. We have Person B who was a conference attendee live-tweeting through it.

Person B isn't simply live-tweeting a "play by play" to let non-attendees know what's going on. Instead, they're opting to tweet their opinion about various points of the presentation, and they later tout that as being somehow legitimate coverage - even perhaps moreso than more detailed after-the-fact coverage.

OK. Here's my problem with that - if you're busy tweeting your opinion on the last thing the speaker said, you're not paying attention to what the speaker is saying now. First of all, I think there's an obvious level of disrespect in that. Perhaps more importantly though, Person B is likely taking some things out of context by not listening to the full presentation, therefore spreading misinformation to his followers (which spreads like wildfire).

At the end of the presentation, Person A asked if anyone had questions or opinions to share. No shock here, but Person B didn't bother opening their mouth to share their thoughts in front of the audience present. Why? Who knows? But I find it strange that they'd share so openly with "followers" rather than take up their issues with the speaker and attendees, where they'd more likely have to justify those thoughts.

Long after the event had passed, Person B was still talking about it - this time in relation to a blog post or article coming after the event. They were (in a general sense) touting the immediacy of Twitter as almost a sort of replacement for real journalism based on the fact that they could live-tweet, whereas the more thorough piece came long after, with editorial standards applied.

It's led not only to a bit of debate in the PR community, but also even calls from some saying that presenters should actually be tailoring their presentations to those who would live-tweet.

Does Immediacy Lead to Reliable Reporting?

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In cases such as this, where we're talking about a conference, I would say no. If you aren't paying attention to what the speaker has to say, you're not in a position to be offering commentary to others about what that person is saying.

Judy generally agreed, adding "Self publishing versus vetted / edited material. Big difference. For the most part, I still prefer door number two."

As do I. When I want "real news" I still prefer turning to journalists (whether that be in print, online, or broadcast), where I know facts had to be checked and material was likely scrutinized by an editor.

Now don't get me wrong. I obviously have an interest in self publishing and the immediacy of things like blogging. Hell, I make a good part of my living doing just that. But it has its place, and conferences are one example where live-tweeting / live-blogging can do more harm than good.

Where might these things work? I could see a play by play of a sporting event being a better use. Or live-tweeting about local news (such as witnessing a simple car accident to posting about a natural disaster as it's hitting). But when your attention is more tuned to amusing your followers with your anecdotes or sharing opinions with your own little echo-chamber over being able to defend them to the speaker and attendees of an event, it's a different game entirely.

What do You Think?

What are some situations where live-tweeting or blogging are the most appropriate publishing mediums, and in what situations do you still prefer news to come from more traditional outlets, passing by the eyes of an editor? And as a writer do you think that immediacy could potentially hurt your own credibility if not handled responsibly? How?

Thanks for sharing!
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Jennifer Mattern is a professional blogger, freelance business writer, and indie author. Through her company, 3 Beat Media, she operates All Indie Writers,,, and numerous other blogs.

Jenn has over 15 years experience writing for others, over 11 years experience in blogging, and 9 years experience in indie e-book publishing. She is an Active member of the Horror Writers Association.

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  1. Yo
    Yo February 27, 2009 Reply

    In the situation you presented, I think the person who opined is actually more interested in their own opinion and in manipulating the public’s interpretation of the “event” than they are in actually listening to and understanding the speaker. I do think that Twittering during the Oscars and other awards shows or sporting events is great 🙂

  2. Jan Sokoloff Harness February 27, 2009 Reply

    Tweeting is not journalism. Listening is a lost art. And manners are clearly on the endangered list.

  3. Jennifer Mattern February 27, 2009 Reply

    Jan – I agree completely. Tweeting is far from journalism in my book. The bigger claim against journalists comes from the blogging side of it. What I find interesting on the Twitter end is that a lot of those folks act as though it’s their “right” to do so at any time, in any surrounding, and to hell with what’s actually going on around them (beyond that limited scope translating into tweets). Even more shocking to me is when I see claims that this immediacy in any way significantly could, or should, replace real journalism. Hell, even in blogging you can have editorial guidelines, and you can save and go back with fresh eyes before posting. Twitter on the other hand, to me, is about as close to anything journalistic as two high school kids passing notes in class.

    Yo – I think you really hit the nail on the head. 🙂 And again I agree – for those types of events, where attention to a speaker really isn’t an issue, I think it’s a much better use of the platforms.

  4. Jennifer L February 27, 2009 Reply

    Loved this article. Loved it. And I agree. No one should let Twittering get in the way of listening, taking notes and being able to put together a reasonably coherent interpretation of what was being said. And I think any copy that’s been edited by a good editor is preferable to copy that hasn’t. That said, I wouldn’t go so far as to say I don’t think journalists should never sent out updates by Twitter during an event or speech. I think it could be useful for breaking news purposes in some instances. Say you’re attending a mayor’s state of the city address, and he mentions that the city is going to raise its sales tax next year. Why not send out a quick tweet, saying, “Mayor So-and-So just announced the sales tax will go up a half cent next year”? Of course, the important thing is to make sure that you have all your facts straight before you send out the tweet. That’s what worries me about people who send out a constant stream of tweets–are they really convinced they have all the right info and are ready to share it with the public?

  5. Isaac February 27, 2009 Reply

    I tweet (@isaacsweeney), but I don’t use it as a substitute for actual writing. Blogging is a little more credible for accurate information, so long as the blogger is knowledgeable and has done his/her homework.

    I still get news from newspapers. I get opinions from bloggers. Blogs are for conversations, I think. Twitter is for social networking.

  6. Debbie H. February 28, 2009 Reply

    Well, as a professional political opinion columnist, I find it very important to let the news and events “digest” in my mind. My brain needs the processing time to really think about the issue or topic at hand so I can come to conclusions that I feel make sense and can be backed up with good sound reasoning.
    We all need to just stop and think a little more. However, I did respond to this post almost immediately after reading it. 😉

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