Is Twitter a Valid Source for Journalism and Academia?

You see it on TV all the time, screen shots of celebritie’s and politician’s tweets displayed during major shows and news hours. In addition to affecting newsrooms, Twitter is allowing citizen journalism to reach new levels due to its accessibility by anyone with web access. That is all good and well, but should Twitter be considered a legitimate source?

Every public tweet since March 2006 is being stored by The Library of Congress (LoC). When this happened the LoC said to ‘expect an emphasis on scholarly and research implications regarding Twitter’. I think we are beginning to see the results.

Twitter and Journalism

Twitter has changed journalism. It has increased the speed at which news is shared and has become a valuable research tool. Twitter broke the news about Whitney Houston’s death 27 minutes before the press. Many people are not going to newspapers for their first burst of news, they are checking tweets.

According to the “State of the News Media 2012” report by Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, nine percent of the respondents in the latest survey “very often” follow news recommendations from Facebook or Twitter. This has increased 57 percent from 2009. The study also found most digital news readers are still “very likely” to use search, web or app news aggregators or direct visits to obtain news. The study also found that 23 percent of U.S. adults get news from two devices. Another noteworthy discovery from the study – Twitter is more highly regarded than Facebook as a source of news story recommendations.

Natasha Rudnick, assignment editor and producer at CBS News in New York, shares her experience with Twitter as a journalist in “Twitter: A journalist’s gateway to the world.” Overall, she found Twitter to be a useful for journalists. Twitter embraces the changes it is bringing to the press. Twitter even offers a guide “Twitter for Newsrooms.” Explaining the ins and outs of Twitter for journalists.

Celebrated journalists such as Katie Couric are on board with Twitter. Check out her interview with Brian Solis on Social Media and Real-Time Journalism.

Twitter is affecting journalism, not only by allowing more citizens to report and comment on news, but by also by transforming the speed at which news is shared.

But just as in business cases, strategy is important. Social media and journalism strategy is not the same as a business looking to sell product.

Twitter and Academia

If Twitter is a journalist source, can is also be considered an academic source? The Modern Language Association provides guidelines on how to cite a Tweet.

“On Twitter, what is determined to be an academic resource is often times very subjective and is directly related to the Tweeter’s credentials or acknowledge expertise on the subject under discussion,” a Minnesota State University Reference Librarian said. Before including a tweet in an academic paper, I would recommend checking with the professor since citing a Tweet in academia is a relatively new concept; it may not be accepted by all professors. I project that in the future more professors will include Twitter citations in their research which may pave the way for students to be allowed to use Twitter as an academic source. With support from the Modern Language Association and the Library of Congress archiving all public tweets, Twitter is slowly becoming a legitimate source for journalists and academia.

Do you think Twitter is a valid source for journalist and academic papers? Would you ever cite Twitter as a source? Would you trust news organizations that use Twitter as a source? Should Twitter sources always be cross referenced?

Jenny is a social media enthusiast who also writes for the blog over at Four51

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  • Robzie81

    I’ve seen a lot more “one person on Twitter said” quotes showing up in news reports. At first I questioned the journalistic integrity of it, but *technically* tweets are a public statement. It never ceases to amaze me how often people tend to forget that. I started a segment on my blog called Found Tweet Friday that highlights some of the ridiculous things I’ve found people saying on Twitter. As for academia, I still feel that someone’s offline credentials still don’t make their tweets academic material. Unless they clearly state in their profile that their tweets directly reflect their academic work, tweets should be treated as opinions, not academic facts. Obviously, Twitter is a fast paced way to find out about breaking news, and with things like Help A Reporter Out (HARO), the use of Twitter to find breaking news, even by the reporters themselves, will likely remain intact.

  • jennykaypollock

    Robzie81 – I agree there are a lot more “one person on Twitter said” quotes.I think it is important to remember that tweets are a public statement. Your Found Tweet Friday sounds interesting what is the link to your blog? I’d love to check it out.

  • Ed

    Twitter, while wonderful, is NOT an academic source. Indeed referencing a librarian instead of an academic from any leading university confirms this. Furthermore, academic sources tend to be peer-reviewed journal articles or recognised textbooks; currently Twitter is nowhere near “slowly becoming a recognised source for academia”. My students would fail for using it, it’s simply not credible.

    • Robzie81

      I tend to agree with you in terms of Twitter not being a credible direct resource, but I think that merit does lie in providing a starting point. If students follow thought leaders in a field of study, it could be an easy way for them to connect to those authors and writers in a way previously not possible. If authors reference or cite their own work in tweets and students search for these relevant terms, this could possibly link students to engaging with that author’s work. I do NOT feel, much as you do, that Twitter itself should be or is leading toward being a credible and cite-worthy stand alone academic resource.

    • jennykaypollock

      Hi Ed thanks for sharing, I agree Twitter is wonderful. I also agree that Twitter is not viewed as a source right now, but I do think it will be. What do you think about citing a tweet from an author of a peer reviewed journal or reconized textbook?