Opinion: Twitter impacts journalistic world

Paige Esterly, Author

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Twitter is great for day-to-day use, but more importantly it helps journalists spread breaking news to the public almost instantaneously.

I’ve never really understood Twitter. To me, it all just seemed like a bunch of people I don’t care a thing about relaying every single detail of their lives, which I care about even less. I mean, I’m not even interested in what I had for lunch, so why on earth would everybody else in cyberspace be?

And then came the fateful day of Nov. 6, 2012, which, for those of you who don’t have eyes or ears, was election day for grand old America. Although, if you don’t have eyes, I’m not sure how you’re reading this, since The Paly Voice is not advanced enough just yet to have our articles translated into braille.

Anyway, it’s election day, and I’m sitting at home simultaneously abusing the refresh button on politico.com’s election coverage page and trudging through the pages of my AP US History textbook because, oh hey, who doesn’t love 19th century politics? And there, curled up under a blanket on my unmade bed surrounded by crumpled up history notes, it hits me.

Twitter is quite possibly one of this election’s most important journalistic tools.

Let’s start on a small, personal scale with The Paly Voice itself. We have our own Twitter account, believe it or not, and for the election we put a live Twitter feed on our home page, combining the tweets of all our staff members stationed around Palo Alto. Some were interviewing people outside various polling sites, while others attended parties thrown for issues on the ballot while still others closely monitored the news, searching for information that pertained to our Palo Alto community. And all the while every single one of us tweeted. And those tweets were pooled effortlessly on our home page, creating a convenient collage of all things election. It was simple, easy and, most importantly, completely instantaneous.

And we were far from the only journalists making use of what Twitter has to offer. All night I sat at my computer, even after the race for president was over, APUSH textbook laying forgotten on my floor, scrolling through my Twitter feed. The New York Times and Time.com both tweeted with breakneck speed, letting the public know exactly what was happening the instant something transpired. It was all the news, as immediate and fresh as if I were watching it live, collected in one space underneath a cute little blue bird logo.

Immediacy. That’s what web journalism is all about. Letting the public know what is happening as it happens. Helping them keep up, step by step, with the fast-paced world around them. So, yes, Twitter is great for telling all your friends about about that funny conversation you overheard at lunch, or about that great new shade of nail polish you just discovered or whatever else may possibly pop into your mind, but, most importantly, it provides people with a simple, convenient way to watch the future of our world unfold.