The Traditional Journalist Tweets

Wolf Blitzer tweets. Ironic, though not inconceivable. It should not be surprising that a journalist in this fickle time for journalism would engage in a new (a.k.a. now) media in order to stay relevant, connect with the audience for better or worse, and learn to roll with the punches.

Wolf Blitzer is the host for CNN’s The Situation Room,in which he attempts to deliver the “most important news and political stories of the day”. He also contributes to a blog of the same name and tweets snipits of what his show is going to be about, who he will be talking to and often requests audience participation.

This week I lurked on Wolf Blitzer’s twitter page in order to gain a sense of how one journalist that experienced traditional media as a consumer and then later, as a reporter of news, is transitioning into what remains undefined as a journalists new role. Despite his limited and somewhat simplistic use of  twitter, I think the key here is the fact that he is tweeting. His is blogging.

Wolf Blitzer uses Twitter to promote his blog for CNN, he encourages audience participation through promoting support of important causes and asking what questions the audience would like him to ask the interviewees, therefore reducing the separation between a reporter and the reader. However, it does appear that the amount of actual participation is from other news sources and not from the general public, unless of course it is to deride him for something they disagree with, but without any constructive criticism  – without which it is impossible to grow.

Whatever new medium we innovate next, I have no doubt that Wolf Blitzer would take a swing at that too. Many people from the journalism profession might ridicule him for using such devices to interact with his audience, citing that it isn’t journalism. To those that ridicule social media as an avenue for reaching and informing an audience, it may not be the professional journalists idea of a proper medium, but it is a tool. And it is only the beginning of what is to come.

I think the most important things I learned from following Wolf Blitzer is that we, as journalists, have a HUGE hurdle to overcome in terms of audience understanding and meaningful participation. Anyone can comment. But unless given direction, online audience commentary will only ever sit in the abyss of the world wide web and the journalist is at a loss for where to begin in order to once again captivate an audience and gain loyalty and respect.

Twitter is not the be all for social and journalistic interaction on the Internet. But it is a useful tool. It allows a reporter to disseminate bits of information quickly and informally.

So I say Tweet on Wolf Blitzer! Tweet on!


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