As the snow fell, Weber State University students, faculty and community members braved the weather and filled the Shepherd Union Ballrooms on Wednesday to attend a discussion which posed the question, “Is Twitter the new newspaper?”
As the audience members took their seats and finished their catered lunch, a panel of five professional journalists entered the stage while the audience awaited to hear what they had to say.
The discussion, put on by the Walker Institute of Politics and Public Service, included Debbie Dujanovic from KSL News, Robert Gehrke from the Salt Lake Tribune, Lisa Riley Roche from Deseret News, Ben Winslow from Fox 13 News and Weber State journalism professor Jean Norman.
The moderator for the discussion was KSL News Radio host Doug Wright.
As the discussion progressed and intensified, the panel made it clear that, although a useful tool in journalism, Twitter has not taken over as the new newspaper, nor has it replaced investigative journalism.
According to Dujanovic, who has been in television news since 1989, Twitter is more of a resource than it is a replacement for the newspaper.
“It is certainly a good way to alert the public much more quickly than we have been able to in the past,” Dujanovic said. “But I don’t think it will replace true investigative journalism.”
Dujanovic also said that it is important for all journalists, especially those who are older, to embrace social media like Twitter for purposes of journalism.
“We can no longer hide as journalists from the new tools out there,” Dujanovic said. “We have to adapt to them and become prolific at it.”
According to Roche, who agreed with Dujanovic about Twitters use as a tool, Twitter is “just another way of being competitive.”
“You want to be first, and you want to get information out quickly,” Roche said. “It used to be that you would go on to the Internet to see what has been posted. But now, if you really care about an issue, you are on Twitter.”
Gehrke expounded on the importance of embracing Twitter as a tool in journalism.
“If you don’t embrace Twitter and embrace the Internet, you are going to be a dinosaur well before your time,” Gehrke said.
According to Norman, social media like Twitter has allowed for a ‘democratization’ of news, which has made her students “more informed than they realized.”
“Often, students are coming in and saying, ‘Did you hear about this?’ or ‘Did you read about that?’” Norman said. “It shows me that these students are becoming avid consumers of news.’”
For Winslow, the youngest panel member who frequently uses Twitter within his work, Twitter is not the new newspaper. Instead, he believes that it is the new “newswire.”
“It provides a wonderful amount of raw information, but it doesn’t give you that context or background,” Winslow said. “It can refer you to those things, but I don’t think that it can explain everything.”
So, although Twitter might not be seen as the new newspaper, it can definitely be viewed as an asset within the journalist’s tool belt.
“My answer is no, Twitter is not the first draft of history,” said Norman. “But it is the reporter’s notebook of history.”