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Reuters: An editor-in-chief Twitters

David Schlesinger, the editor-in-chief of Reuters News, has a fascinating post up at his blog, Full Disclosure — a fitting title, given the topic of the post. Schlesinger writes about how he has been Twittering from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland and how his Twitter messages (or “tweets,” as people insist on calling them) actually beat his own wire service, as described in a post at Silicon Alley Insider. The news? That billionaire financier George Soros believes the current economic downturn could be worse than the Great Depression, and that as much as $15-trillion might be needed to save the banking system.

As Schlesinger notes in the post, people have raised a number of issues about this practice, including:

Is it journalism?

Is it dangerous?

Is it embarrassing that my tweets even beat the Reuters newswire?

Am I destroying Reuters standards by encouraging tweeting or blogging?

to which he says he answers: “Yes, Potentially, No and No.” In a comment on the Silicon Alley Insider post, he continues:

Reuters is using Twitter a lot at Davos – I think it is absolutely vital to experiment with all the technology available to us. I’m using Twitter to live tweet things that interest me and to give a more personal take on what’s going on, so there’s no question I’m stepping outside “traditional” Reuters news journalistic roles. I think it’s important to try it… Being a competitive person, I took great pleasure in beating the wire! But I was putting myself and my reputation and my experience on the line. It’s not for every situation, but nor should it be. The key message from me is — use the technology and the process and the platform best suited for any particular situation. And experiment.

In his blog post, Schlesinger takes to task those who would argue that he shouldn’t be doing such things, and that “real” journalists in general shouldn’t be doing such things:

I have little patience for those who cling to sentimental (and frankly inaccurate) memories of the good old halcyon days of journalism that were somehow purer and better than a world where tweets and blogs compete with news wires and newspapers. Bring it on, I say!

Bravo, David. Reuters and other newswires have made their names and their fortunes by being first with the news — now anyone who is at a news event has the equivalent of a newswire in their pocket, thanks to cellphones, Twitter, and other social-media tools. Does that make them journalists? Possibly. But best of all, “real” journalists can make use of all those tools too.

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  • Gina Chen

    I think this is a very important post. I’m a huge fan of Twitter, and for me, it’s probably my most important social-networking tool, besides blogging, as a journalist.

    Yet I hear journalists all the time make the same complaints …

    – Why would I care what someone had for lunch?

    – But how can we publish without editing?

    – What if the news changes, and the tweet becomes inaccurate.

    Like Schlesinger, I have little patience for those who, as he says, “cling to sentimental (and frankly inaccurate) memories of the good old halcyon days of journalism that were somehow purer and better than a world where tweets and blogs compete with news wires and newspapers.”

    Twitter is an evolving medium. People get that. When you tweet something and then update 10 minutes later, people realize that you have new information. And in today’s fast-paced society, people want news instantly. I know I do.

    Twitter to me is perfectly suited to covering something like the World Economic Forum. It allows readers to get the gist right away and then read more indepthly later. As a reader, I’d love that.

  • Mathew Ingram

    I completely agree, Gina. Thanks for the comment.

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  • reuters staffer

    What David doesn’t say is that it would be tantamount to a firing offence for a Reuters journalist to publish to a non-Reuters source before the newswire, especially something this important. He can take pleasure in beating the newswire at its own game but how has he really helped Reuters with this post?

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