During the past few years, social media has introduced professionals to yet another fascinating way of connecting with one another on the internet. Facebook and Twitter have become two contenders of time, space, and content and have literally pioneered the advent of social media in India.
Twitter is an online social media site, introduced in July 2006 by Jack Dorsey. It works on the concept of “real time” where every “tweet” can be a news story posted live from any part of the country in 140 characters. What attracted the journalists to the site is the openness of the site.
Twitter is a public forum where whatever one says can be documented and reflected and thus inviting media professionals to start noticing the value of the tweets posted.
Several studies have revealed that the journalists in the metro cities have found Twitter useful for three purposes - to assimilate, disseminate, and spread news to the people. It is one of the most powerful tools for instant dissemination of news.
Summary of research findings :
Sample size : 50 journalists
Just 50% of the journalists believe that Twitter is useful to them professionally.
17.5% are still confused about the features of Twitter, while the other 17.5% believe in the importance of traditional media instead of online media.
45% professionals believe thatTwitter is a faster medium for news dissemination.
77.5% of journalists use Twitter for their personal purposes rather than news purposes.
The important features of Twitter such as 140 characters, instant updating, 24X7 availability, free membership, sharing of photos and videos, and many other aspects have a positive response from the journalists of Odisha. They believe that Twitter would be an ideal way to interact with like-minded journalists as well as public figures to get quotes and news content from them.
A few journalists disagree with the concept of 140 chars for news. For example, Sakyasen Mitra, sports editor of Orissa Post, says that “overuse of anything is overkill and that is what is happening now with Twitter However, Twitter is not so popular in the backward States. Odisha is one among them that has around 4,000 users (Dec. 2011; tweeple.in). It has only a mild response to the practical use of the website.
Sampad Mohapatra of NDTV 24X7 says that because the discussion is too wide open, anybody can join in and thus there is no personal touch to the conversation left. He also empathises with potential Twitter users of Odisha who do not still receive a strong 3G connection from every mobile operator or the advent of smartphones thus minimising the use considerably. Twitter as a medium has to be used through compatible mediums, only then is it available to the people 24X7.
Twitter has gained many accolades in the area of features and their possible utility. Namrata Sahoo, senior reporter at The New Indian Express, says that twitter as a microblogging site is an “intelligent medium to give the news in 140 characters”. Adding to that thought, Diptimaya Behera, reporter, Sambad, says that it is a unique way of conveying news compared with the traditional media.
Dubbendu Chakrabarty feels that this form of dissemination of news is “precise, specific, crystal clear, and a short way for understanding and communicating”. V.S.Anovind of Orissa Post claims it is the best way to convey news. Although the majority of other respondents do not have an idea of how Twitter works and thus refuse”. Samhati Mohapatra, sub-editor, Orissa Post, says that although Twitter is a useful microblogging site, it can only be used for national and international stories. State-related stories cannot be highlighted through this medium. The search medium is not narrow enough for State-related stories to get covered and talked about, she says.
Journalists such as Anupama Raut of Kanak TV believe that Twitter is of no interest to them as professionals because 140 chars are too short for news. Debayan Tewari of Orissa Post says that if the topic of conversation is a marketable public figure, say a celebrity, it is easier to use Twitter as a medium to spread a certain opinion in favor of himher, if nothing else.
The journalists in Odisha are not yet comfortable so as to consider Twitter as a source of news as much as Facebook. Diana Sahu of The New Indian Express says that as she mostly writes feature stories, Facebook helps her generate a number of them, but Twitter is still new to her and story ideas do not come naturally from there.
Acquiring quotes and data from Twitter still seems complicated and unreliable to the journalists. Although Twitter in Odisha is not used for writing news stories as much as in metro cities, the journalists here are open to the idea of professional networking through the website.
Kasturi Ray of Express Publications Madurai Ltd, Diptimayu Behera, Mausumee Bal, and Ashish Gadnayak of Sambad; Namrata Sahoo of The New Indian Express; Dubbendu Chakrabarty and Minaketan Mishra of Kanak TV and a few others strongly believe that professional networking on Twitter is possible although only a few of them have actually tried it. They believe it is necessary as the journalists should to be updated with news every second, and twitter will help them stay in touch with the news as well as develop networking to get more story ideas and inputs through what other colleagues tweet on Twitter.
Although media persons in Odisha many think that Twitter has become an alternative source of news, the general agreement is that its content is useful for them to write or develop stories or even to get story ideas. Sarada Mishra of Sambad says that Twitter is the fastest way of networking and can become an alternative source of news. Diptimiya Behera claims that within two to three minutes after an event occurs the news relating to it is updated on it. The medium is so fast that the content keeps updating constantly. Namrata Sahoo believes that Twitter is an alternative source for International stories as so many prominent journalists are on it and thereby serves as a source of inspiration.
Ashish Gadnayak of Sambad says that Twitter is not a source of news but it gives the journalists just an idea to make their own stories interesting. To gather news or to source of news, traditional means are any day better. Sakyasen Mitra feels that nothing can surpass TV updates, while Saiprasad Mohanty says that in no way is the Twitter content helpful or is an alternative source of news.
Thus, in Odisha, journalists are aware of Twitter and although they do not tweet regularly and just have an account on it, 77.5% are still users of Twitter through some means. Fifty per cent of the journalists interviewed believe that Twitter is useful to them professionally, while 17.5% are still confused about the features of site and another 17.5% believe in the importance of traditional media. Forty-five percent of them believe that Twitter is a faster medium of news and feel that Twitter has an immense scope and future in India as it might change the way news is presented and disseminated.
In a vast country such as India it is essential to consider the use of such a medium in every part of the country as that is what defines the depth of its reach and its full utility. What one says on Twitter becomes hearsay for some and news for the others. Twitter has distinctive features: updating is simple and fast as the idea of 140 chars gives window to the news tweets to be a kind of news spurt, like important headlines, breaking news, death tolls, accident reporting, political developments, and so on. Journalists are more inclined to depend on traditional media as the source of news, although with changing times, the web has become a major source of news for them.
A more profound look into the use of Twitter in India according to a website, tweeple.in, enlightens us with statistics of 1.86 crore people using the website till December 2011. In India, it is a popular belief that only celebrities join the social networking site to attend to their public relations, and politicians to be in the news. In India, New Delhi has the highest number of users at 14.34 lakh followed by Mumbai with around 12.95 lakh users.
However, Twitter has not seen an upsurge with respect to journalists in Odisha. Although they are aware of the medium and are using it to certain extent, the site has a long way to go to emerge as a generally acceptable source of news as it has become elsewhere in the country.
Research supervised by Bhagaban Sahu