Tag Archives: Twitter

Whitney Houston Dead at 48

11 Feb

In one of the most shocking deaths to rock the music world since Michael Jackson and Amy Winehouse, superstar singer and troubled Hollywood legend Whitney Houston has died at age 48, her publicist confirmed. No information about how or where she died has been confirmed, but TMZ reports she died at the Beverly Hilton hotel this afternoon.

At her peak, Houston was one of the most dominant forces ever in the music world. She sold more than 200 million albums worldwide and starred in several hit movies.

Amazingly, every trending topic on Twitter right now is dedicated to the singer. Here is her biggest hit of all (a cover of a Dolly Parton song)— “I Will Always Love You.”

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Live-Tweeting While Reading Is Stupid

23 Jan

Live-Tweeting

A disturbing trend has emerged recently. Lots of young people hear about some new article, read it, and live-tweet their reactions to it. The practice drives me nuts, but I think it brings up some broader points about how society uses Twitter.

This latest habit (I hesitate to use the overused word “trend”) has emerged over the last year. I’ve noticed it acutely with three articles in particular. “Getting Bin Laden” by Nicholas Schmidle (New Yorker), “The Shame of College Sports” by Taylor Branch (The Atlantic), and “The Obama Memos” by Ryan Lizza (New Yorker). In each case, I saw groups of people (including, but not limited to, journalists) live-tweet their observations and favorite quotes from each piece.

Live-tweeting simply isn’t effective while reading. Each of these three articles is lengthy, complex and delivers an involved argument. Picking out one quote or observation in the middle of it nearly always misses the broader argument of the piece. I want to hear what other people think of these pieces, but the most valuable service journalists offer is analysis and careful consideration of the arguments. That simply isn’t possible on Twitter, in 140 characters, while trying to read something.

In 99 cases out of 100, the Twitter user would benefit from taking a step back and writing a blog post when they finished reading the story.

Now, this is not to suggest that live-tweeting itself is bad. To the contrary, I think it’s wonderful when used properly. At press conferences or when following breaking news, for example. In those cases, live-tweeting is the fastest, most effective way of getting news and instantaneous reactions (which are most often accurate).

This brings up several larger arguments about Twitter. In my mind, the service does three things really well: 1) It allows users to rapidly scan various services for information, 2) It allows users to share links to other content their followers might be interested in and 3) It allows information to spread much more quickly than any other existing technology. Beyond that, it breaks down.

Observations shared on Twitter are rarely insightful and, at best, simplistic. After all, who can fully share their thoughts in 140 characters? Even the best writer has to condense and oversimplify their arguments to fit within that space constraint. So, I see Twitter as an ideal location for information sharing and a horrendous spot for sharing opinions and observations.

So stop live-tweeting as you read other literature. Write a blog post when you’ve finished and had time to digest it. Tweet me a link. I’ll gladly read it then.

Photo: Adikos

Journalists, Twitter, and Breaking News

22 Jan

Twitter

There should be a quite a lot of soul-searching in the journalistic establishment after an epically disastrous Saturday evening on the Interwebs. Enterprising journalists from around the world rapidly spread two completely false stories by Twitter. The incidents should give everyone pause and offer the opportunity to reconsider social media policies when reporting breaking news.

First, the two stories.

1. Jeb Bush’s Reported Endorsement: Shortly after the South Carolina primary was called for Newt Gingrich, CNN’s John King appeared to land a big scoop. He announced that former Florida Governor (and brother of ex-President George W. Bush)  Jeb Bush would endorse Mitt Romney for the GOP nomination. Problem was Bush didn’t have any intention of endorsing anyone (he later issued a statement to confirm that).  Jim Roberts of the New York Times probably spread the news quickest with this tweet, but other people picked up on it quickly. Pundits jumped on the announcement and began analyzing its impact on the race before Bush denied the rumor in his statement.

2. Joe Paterno Died: Perhaps more disturbingly, Twitter exploded with news that Penn State’s legendary coach Joe Paterno passed away last evening (since then Paterno has of course sadly passed on). Journos around the world tweeted and retweeted the news. Unfortunately, the reports were traced back to one student publication, Onward State, who tweeted that Paterno died around 8:45 p.m. (their leader has since resigned over the flap). CBSSports.com picked up the story and published their own based (apparently) solely on the original report from Onward State. They later issued an apology, “CBSSports.com holds itself to high journalistic standards, and in this circumstance tonight, we fell well short of those expectations,” managing editor Mark Swanson wrote. Other major news organizations like Huffington Post and Buzzfeed also published stories that cited the CBSSports report as the source of their information. It’s worth noting that none of the major news organizations like the New York Times, Reuters, AP, Washington Post or ESPN confirmed the news on their websites.

So how should these incidents be viewed in the journalistic community? More than a condemnation of Twitter, I think instead they remind us of the importance of getting the story right and maintaining solid journalistic fundamentals. Social media sites have transformed how people obtain their news and how they share it (for example, I learned about the deaths of Steve Jobs, Gaddafi, Osama Bin Laden, Kim Jong-Il by Twitter first). Once something breaks, it literally moves around the world in minutes. And that’s a good thing overall.

But, one of the first things journalists are taught is to verify your information and cite your sources. Particularly at the national level, when dealing with important, sensitive stories, those principles become even more important. Everyone is human and mistakes will be made, but there is no excuse for publishing a story about the death of a legendary sports figure with the uncorroborated reports of a student online publication as your sole source. CBS Sports fell down on their responsibility and other journalists must ensure they don’t fall into the same traps.

Breaking news and grabbing the scoop remains an important part of the business. Everyone wants to do it. That does not mean that standards should slip in order to accomplish the feat. Getting information correct has always been a vital part of the news business (it’s essential for maintaining credibility among the public), but it has taken on an even greater importance since the advent of social media.

The best line about grabbing the scoop comes from Walter Cronkite: “Get it first, but get it right.”

Photo credit: NLSven

Weezer Bassist Mikey Welsh Eerily Predicted His Death

10 Oct

Former Weezer bassist Mikey Welsh, 40, died this weekend of a suspected drug overdose at his hotel in Chicago. The musician-turned-artist eerily predicted his death two weeks ago on Twitter.

On September 26, Welsh took to Twitter and wrote that he had dreamt his own death. Was his message a call for help?

A little bit later, Welsh updated his earlier message and changed the date of his death to this past weekend.

Welsh hailed from Burlington, Vermont and played with Weezer from 1998-2001 until he suffered a nervous breakdown. Following his musical career, Welsh devoted himself to painting and drawing.

He was supposed to attend a Weezer concert on Sunday night in Chicago. The band went ahead with the show and dedicated it to their former bandmate.

“A unique talent, a deeply loving friend and father, and a great artist is gone, but we will never forget him. His chapter in the weezer story (’98 – ’01) was vital, essential, wild, and amazing,” the band wrote on their website.

Steve Jobs Dead at 56

5 Oct

Legendary Apple co-founder and technological innovator Steve Jobs has passed away at the age of 56. He had waged a public battle against pancreatic cancer for the better part of a decade.

Jobs was a visionary who fundamentally changed the way people interact. The iPod, iPad and iPhone are just a couple of his inventions.

The company’s Board of Directors posted a short message online. “Apple has lost a visionary and creative genius, and the world has lost an amazing human being. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to know and work with Steve have lost a dear friend and an inspiring mentor. Steve leaves behind a company that only he could have built, and his spirit will forever be the foundation of Apple.”

A statement from the Jobs family said tech visionary passed away peacefully, surrounded by his family. “In his public life, Steve was known as a visionary; in his private life, he cherished his family. We are thankful to the many people who have shared their wishes and prayers during the last year of Steve’s illness; a website will be provided for those who wish to offer tributes and memories. We are grateful for the support and kindness of those who share our feelings for Steve. We know many of you will mourn with us, and we ask that you respect our privacy during our time of grief.”

Tributes poured in from around the world, including the White House. “Michelle and I are saddened to learn of the passing of Steve Jobs. Steve was among the greatest of American innovators – brave enough to think differently, bold enough to believe he could change the world, and talented enough to do it… The world has lost a visionary.”

Microsoft c0-founder Bill Gates offered his condolences to the family and paid tribute to his longtime rival. “The world rarely sees someone who has had the profound impact Steve has had, the effects of which will be felt for many generations to come. For those of us lucky enough to get to work with him, it’s been an insanely great honor. I will miss Steve immensely.”

Google CEO and co-founder Larry Page said Jobs’ focus on the user experience influenced him as he launched the world’s greatest search engine. “I am very, very sad to hear the news about Steve. He was a great man with incredible achievements and amazing brilliance. He always seemed to be able to say in very few words what you actually should have been thinking before you thought it.”

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg wrote a short statement on his wall. “Steve, thank you for being a mentor and a friend. Thanks for showing that what you build can change the world. I will miss you.”

Twitter CEO Dick Costolo paid tribute in a tweet. “Once in a rare while, somebody comes along who doesnt just raise the bar, they create an entirely new standard of measurement.”

Speaker of the House John Boehner used Twitter as well. “Steve Jobs changed the world for the better w/ his innovations & genius. R.I.P.”

Here’s a collection of celebrity reaction to the sad news.

Lastly, for those people who have not seen it, here’s Jobs addressing Stanford University in 2005. His speech is moving and well-worth a look.

R.I.P. Steve. You truly changed our world.

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