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Archive for November, 2008

Twitter: A Microblogging Review

Twitter provides constant, accessible stream of information

By Christina Edwards

November 21, 2008

There’s no such thing as too rapid when it comes to information, at least for the three million plus users on Twitter.

Twitter is a free microblogging service that launched on the Web in 2006. Messages posted are 140 characters or less, which provides a constant stream of short informational updates. Users range from news organizations such as CNN, to bloggers and the average citizen keeping friends and family updated easily.

“With its requirement for people to squeeze their thoughts into 140 characters or less, Twitter is a perfect tool for a fast-paced, mobile society,” said Janna Anderson, director of a research project called Imagining the Internet. “Compressed information fits and it offers quick-hitting details we can apply to our lives. Most of the early adopters using Twitter to communicate today are writing on the road, from conferences, sales calls and other mobile situations in which they want to share tightly written information chunks. It first caught on at the South By Southwest media conference in Austin, Texas, just a couple of years ago. It has since been used by political campaigns, businesses and media organizations to quickly brief people on developing situation.”

As someone fairly familiar with the Internet world of information, I’ve only had a marginal experience with Twitter, having seen updates streamed on blogs. I signed up for an account and started exploring.


The Accesiblity Factor

Twitter is free and takes just a few minutes to set up. All that’s required is an email and a password, so Twitter gets automatic points for the easy sign up process. At the same time, anyone can sign up, which comes with the implications of an unfiltered “news” stream.

Posting a message is easy, too: the textbox is at the top of the page. It also counts how many characters used as you type. Simple.

Searching for news feeds to follow becomes a little more difficult. When you enter in a search term, the engine brings up every message containing the terms. The advanced search option allows you to specify whether you are searching words or conversations or places. Searching for specific users is not easily accessible.

How Informative Is It?

How informative Twitter is depends on how often a newsfeed is updated. Updates can happen constantly. I decided to “follow” the US World and News Report, BBC, and the Huffington Post. The Huffington Post, over a course of four hours, updated constantly, providing news every few minutes.

The pertinence of the information, however, is another matter entirely. Over the same four hours, the most talked about subject was the new Twilight movie—on the same day Hillary Clinton said she would accept a Secretary of State nomination.

The Format

Twitter is formatted to be unintimidating. The layout of the actual site can be chosen by the user: the choices are reminiscent of personal blogging platform Livejournal. This doesn’t have to be a stuffy, professional news atmosphere to getting information: a plus for civilian accessibility, but slightly off-putting to the professional.

The stream of news feeding on the home page is both immediate enough to appeal to those searching for constant information and comforting to those more used to Facebook status updates.

Overall

Twitter is an effective means of communicating short messages in a more than timely manner. But I’m not yet convinced that it’s the future of information: it’s shallowly informative. And currently, finding real information is like sifting through soil to find gems.

My Twitter feed, as I set up my account.

Timeline of Online Journalism

Journalism in the Perez Hilton Generation

The Division of News and Gossip

By Christina Edwards

November 19, 2008

The journalist’s job is to inform, to provide the general population with the current information about the world, country, and community they live in. The average citizen has the right to know when happens are effecting their lives, and it is the journalist’s job to serve and protect that right. The first amendment covers freedom of the press for that very purpose, Sunshine Centers have been introduced to assist the journalist in fighting for that right. But in a country that also names privacy as a first amendment right, where is the line between informative, intrusive, or even frivolous?

The recent election season has brought to the forefront questions of journalistic necessity, particularly where families of candidates (including underaged children) are concerned. It can be argued that the candidates are the one running for office, not the family, but what happens when the family provides news relevant to the campaign?

In late August, Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin announced that her 17-year-old daughter Bristol was pregnant. This was immediately followed by a media blitz, covered everywhere from gossip websites to CNN. The coverage, in turn, was immediately criticized by right wing organizations as exploitation.

Palin announced her daughter’s pregnancy at a press conference. Palin is a known advocate of both the pro-life movement and abstinence only education in schools. Palin in essence allowed for this event to be covered, and there is arguable relevancy. The original coverage of the event? Within the rights of reporting.

In the weeks after the news broke, articles appeared reporting on the Myspace Web sites of both Bristol Palin and the reported father, Levi Johnston. These included pictures taken of the teens drinking and quotes taken from Johnston’s page where he had written “I don’t want kids.”
Articles like these breech a level of appropriateness. While it can be argued relevant that a pro-life candidate has a pregnant teenage daughter and child with Down’s Syndrome, the necessity of investigative judgment on the life of a candidate’s child becomes blurred.

On the other side of the partisan pond, one of the hot topics surrounding President Elect Barack Obama (besides what breed of dog the family will adopt) concerns what school his two young daughters will attend when relocated to Washington D.C.

Last week, the New York Times ran an article titled “Parents’ Night with the President,” which reported on elite Washington private schools reportedly looked at by the family vying for the Obamas’ attendance. This topic was also addressed in a recent interview with Obama and his wife Michelle on CBS.

Obama’s democratic education platform addresses several reforms to the public school system and stresses the importance of investing in the quality of public schools. In Chicago, his daughters attended private school, and all of the reported top school choices for the Obamas are private. In terms of where Obama stands on education, the decision he makes on where to send his own children can be considered relevant.

The New York Times ran another article on Tuesday addressing the Obama girls—this time on a tour the were given of the White House by Jenna and Barbara Bush. In the article, there is explicit mention that this was a private event: “The visit was strictly private, with no media coverage or photos.”
Was this article harmful to either the Obama or Bush family? Would it have been harmful to have a couple of photographers snapping pictures? Was this some top secret matter of national security? Probably not, on all counts.
But it wasn’t really relevant to anything, either.

What this comes down to is a matter of privacy. It is not wrong to report that an event happened, or to draw attention to a public website. There’s nothing illegal or even arguably morally reprehensible about these articles.

But just because something can be reported on doesn’t mean it’s newsworthy or necessary. Will it be read? Probably.

But there’s a line between news and gossip, and it’s also the journalist’s job to decide where that line is.

Categories: News: Editorial

Starbucks, Ben and Jerry’s, and others provide incentive for voting

Companies provide incentive to get out the vote

By Christina Edwards

November 4, 2008

Courtesy my.barackobama.com

Courtesy my.barackobama.com

This election, exercising your right to vote can earn you the right to free food and beverages.

On November 4, participating Starbucks stores offered a free 12 oz. coffee to anyone who voted. According to Kaleigh Plumb, a worker at the Burlington Square Mall store, this incentive has proved popular: business doubled throughout the day.

“We’ve had a really good turn out,” said Plumb. “I didn’t personally expect it, because we didn’t really advertise for very long. But I guess people saw it and talked about it.”

In addition to Starbucks, Ben and Jerry’s, Krispy Kreme, and Shane’s Rib Shack also offered free merchandise for election day, though these establishments did not require customers to vote first.

Shane’s Rib Shack’s election day promotion gave away orders of free chicken tenders to the first 300 customers. A manager at the Alamance Crossing store declined to speak about the decision for the promotion.

Krispy Kreme’s 85 company-owned stores gave away star shaped donuts, and encouraged its 145 franchises to do the same.

Ben and Jerry’s offered free scoops of ice cream between 5-8 p.m. to any customer at participating stores. The company also launched a Facebook event to advertise the promotion, as well as a section of their website called I Voted.

“Starbucks likes to take part in doing good things for the community and the country,” said Plumb. “Our company is very involved in everything, I think we just wanted to encourage people to go out and vote.”

Ben and Jerry’s “I Voted” Site

Starbucks Election Day Ad.

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