Twitter – The crowd bites back

TWITTER is changing the way information and opinion is shared. Historians may yet look back and identify it as the single greatest and fastest-growing tool for the democratisation of information since, um, the printing press.

I for one was baffled that commentators doing end-of-decade analysis last month didn’t declare 2009 The Year Of The Crowd. Turmoil in Iran, Jan Moir’s savaging of Stephen Gately’s reputation; Trafigura’s astonishing attempt to gag The Guardian and other media from reporting its toxic dumping scandal; The Scottish Sunday Express’ mugging of teenage survivors of the Dunblane massacre… The course of each of these stories was in part exposed, in part reported, and in part changed utterly by citizens with a net connection and a Twitter account.

Only yesterday, an air traffic controller based in Shannon Airport discovered that a blog post she’d published some time ago had been scooped up and selectively quoted by the Irish Mail on Sunday — essentially they used her words as a stick with which to beat her colleagues. Not good.

Update: When I first posted this opinion, the foregoing paragraph said the Irish Mail on Sunday had produced its article “without making contact with her”. Since then, the paper laid out its side of the story, including the fact that they had made contact, and that the subject had replied saying she’d rather not participate in their planned article. I don’t recall any mention of this contact in the first tweets and blog postings complaining about the article. I may have overlooked it. Either way, apologies to the journalist and the MoS for that.

I do think though my main point still makes sense. End of update.

While this story is still playing itself out, and I for one would balk at drawing any conclusions, Twitter was certainly crucial in allowing her put her side of the story assert the unvarnished and contextualised truth behind the misleading MoS article. Within hours of the newspaper hitting the streets, thousands of people, friends and strangers alike, were able to fully appreciate  her perspective.

I mainly post here about wine, and in a handful of instances (mainly advertising and PR guff, but also a laughably wretched Channel 4 Dispatches programme) I’ve drawn attention to what I call true-but-misleading syndrome: That’s where a newspaper, wine-seller or PR person (or, dagnabit, an office gossip) selectively stacks a heap of truths together that are so woefully decontextualised and misleading as to be worse than lies. Worse, because they are so difficult to rebut.

Twitter is not going to magically dispel that syndrome. But it’s certainly going to accelerate the dissemenation of detail, of context, of opinion. Not all of it is going to be good or pretty, and certainly not all of it is going to be bad.  It’s going to be interesting.

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One Response

  1. […] On a bigger scale *harrumphs and adopts serious disposition* you might like to pour another glass and reflect that Twitter is changing the way information and opinion is shared.  I look at that here. […]

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