Twitter Journalism

Gonzo Meets the Press # 1 March 30, 2011

American author and legendary Rolling Stone political correspondent, Dr Hunter S Thompson,  helped pioneer gonzo (or new) journalism,
where the reporter becomes the story and goes out on the road to seek fear and
loathing wherever it may lurk – and write about it.

This will be a semi-regular blog (that means you’re not
going to tie me down to a weekly column) about the press and politics and journalism
in Australia – gonzo style.

Since this is the first of many (I hope) blogs to appear on
the Meet the Press website, the Meet the Press Australia Facebook page, and our
Twitter account — @meetthepress10 – I thought I’d start with an easy piece.
Why should journalists tweet, asked Rockin’ Robin (“tweet, tweet, tweet”, if
you remember that song by Bobby Day in the sixties).

I didn’t know a tweet from a treat until February 2009 when
Joe Trippi, campaign manager for US presidential candidate Howard Dean and
author of The Revolution Will Not be
Televised,
came to Australia on a Microsoft-sponsored tour to spread the
word about the social media.

But I did read somewhere that Joe was a master of Twitter
and had about six thousand followers then. I just checked (@joetrippi) and he
now has over a million! Joe tweeted about flying into Melbourne and how he was
very big on retweets – it took a while to find out what that meant. But now we
all retweet (resend a message to all our followers), and Joe sent his
condolences to the people of Victoria on Sky News on the Sunday Agenda program,
two weeks after Black Saturday. Then he tweeted that to his followers.
Suddenly, I got it and started tweeting as well.

And my 31-year-old daughter, who had introduced me to
Facebook, was surprised I had beaten her to Twitter. She wrote about her
65-year-old father, the Tweeter, in Reader’s
Digest Australia
and promptly got bored by Twitter. That often happens to
people, I’m told; many of the network’s 2 million accounts are inactive. But
she’s back and tweeting merrily along.

The best advice I got about Twitter and who to follow came
from a colleague, who said: “Follow as many journalists as you can.” Journos often
recommend people and Twitter accounts. Leigh Sales of the ABC1’s 7.30 does this all the time @leighsales (she has also written
a column for the Punch called
Well-Read Head in which she recommended the ten best reads of the week. It’s on
hiatus while she concentrates on her new 7.30 gig). We both agree that if you
can only follow one person on Twitter, Mark Colvin, the presenter of ABC’s PM program, is your man at @Colvinius.

And another good tool for journos is a guide to Twitter on
this link: http://mashable.com/2009/05/14/twitter-journalism/
I don’t know all I need to know about Twitter, but I am working on it.

All of the above is intended to give you an idea of why you
should use Twitter, and why you should tweet Meet the Press Australia with
questions on Sunday morning before the program, and during the week if you have
comments or questions (that was a blatant plug) on this website, on our
Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/meetthepressau)
or our Twitter account (@meetthepress10).

Which brings me back to the good Dr Thompson. I often wonder
how he would have used Twitter. I think he would have rebelled against the
140-character limit – his rants were usually 140 pages long before he got
warmed up, though he did write a good short column for the San Francisco Examiner (see his collection, A Generation of Swine), and a popular sports column for ESPN.com.

But he would have loved having a million or two followers, and
stirring them up, with his controversial opinions and sparkling wit. Alas, he committed
suicide in his fortified compound in Woody Creek, Colorado in February 2005.

Thompson hated Richard Nixon as much as I do, and I would
have certainly retweeted his comments on the death of the American president,
who claimed he was not a crook. Just imagine this as a tweet (well, five
tweets, as it’s 452 characters). You get the last words in this blog, Hunter:

“If the right people had been in charge of Nixon’s funeral,
his casket would have been launched into one of those open-sewage canals that
empty into the ocean just south of Los Angeles. He was a swine of a man and a
jabbering dupe of a president. Nixon was so crooked that he needed servants to
help him screw his pants on every morning. Even his funeral was illegal. He was
queer in the deepest way. His body should have been burned in a trash bin.” *

(*Read the full column here: http://www.theatlantic.com/past/docs/unbound/graffiti/crook.htm)

Tom Krause is the supervising producer of Meet the Press. His views are his own; always have been.

 

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