News from Twitter

Last week, I wrote a blog about the dark side of Twitter. Not surprisingly, it’s not all that bad. Today I’ll be talking about something good that is happening on the most popular microblog site.

I’m going to introduce an account called @140Journos, which obviously refers to the character limit of twitter, and is actively doing the job called “citizen journalism.” Citizen journalism is where the people report the news instead of the professional. You don’t need to have a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism, or you are not required to work for a newspaper. You just need to be at the place where the event is happening.

If you look at the web, there are not many examples of such reporting. There is Digital Journal from Canada, which looks pretty similar to any other news website, but is edited by its users. There is CitizenTube channel on YouTube, an account which shares videos posted by its subscribers. There are several more examples, but to cut it short I will jump directly to 140journos.

Yüzkırk (140) journos works in a very, very clever way. Followers who attend events that would qualify as news, or followers who encounter some news material would tweet it with a reference to @140journos. They’re also required to add a picture, so that people who administer the account would know they are not being trolled around. People behind 140journos would also check EXIF information of pictures, and do an online search to verify that the image is actually new on the web. Even though they have all protective measures, from time to time they can be deceived. When it happens, some followers would tell it to 140journos and they tweet an apology for that.

The most beautiful point of 140journos is that you can learn what is happening in detail from the people at the place where it is happening. You don’t need to follow the specific person. And it is obviously different from mainstream media because there is no filtering and censoring, which is quite a big issue around here. You can also learn the news as they are happening, an advantage also underlined by Tom Gruber on the article titled Collective Knowledge Systems.

One of the founders (Cem Aydoğdu) tells their story in detail in a TED Talk. I was unable to find English subtitles, but you might want to give it a try. He talks about why they started doing this (because they realized that there are people who cannot make themselves hearable through mainstream media), and some interesting fluctuations of their followers (people who follow them when their topic is being reported, but unfollows immediately when the account focuses on something else).

So yes, Twitter can be a decent medium if it is used for good purposes.