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    Twitter Posse for Reporters

    by JD Lasica
    December 13, 2007

    Jon Funabiki & Steve Chen

    Jon Funabiki of SFSU and Steve Chen, CTO and co-founder of YouTube

    The just-ended Roundtable on Mobile Media and Civic Engagement, held by the Aspen Institute and San Francisco State University in San Francisco, was more than a two-day brain jam attended by mobile industry execs, academics and reps from civic and social justice organizations. Sessions were structured to come up with recommendations regarding mobile’s emerging role in the news media, politics and e-governance.

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    One snippet worth sharing here was an idea embraced by the editor of Wired News. I mentioned to my breakout session that in1996 I wrote a story detailing John Perry Barlow’s vision of being able to feed questions to reporters in the field at an interview or breaking news story. Interactivity — the promise of a two-way dialogue between journalist and audience — was what Barlow held out as a model form of journalism.

    We took that notion in a slightly different direction. Our small group suggested having reporters at newspapers or magazines begin using the immediacy and interactivity of Twitter. A beat reporter could enlist a dozen or two dozen passionate, driven readers to serve as a kind of Twitter posse. Whenever she was about to tackle a big story or difficult interview, the reporter could begin a mobile dialogue with her posse members, who could pose questions, much like the “backchannel” IRC feed at conferences such as AlwaysOn or Supernova. This is a different approach than ReporTwitters, or Steve Outing’s recent suggestions of a Twitter city desk and Twitter as an aggregator of reader news bits.

    What I like about the concept: It brings a much-needed air of transparency to the newsroom. It brings readers into the conversation, albeit in a limited way. It expands the reporter’s field of vision. The posse could be structured in a way to reduce noise and solicit the most thoughtful participants.

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    What I don’t like about it: The reporter is still the conduit and can shape and filter the story regardless of the posse members’ input. Readers’ involvement is only quasi-active.

    We’ll see how it plays out. Wired News may start experimenting with this in limited fashion early next year. Perhaps some enterprising reporters out there are already doing so.

    Tagged: conversational media dialogue interactivity new media twitter
    • Thanks for introduction to “Twitter posses.” Your vision inspired this blog post: “Will homebuyers create their own “Twitter posses”?”

      Looks like great minds think alike. Someone has already registered http://twitterposse.com and is using it for apartment and home searches (among other things).

    • Twitter groups functionality would have so many applications!

    • Great post, JD. I just shared some thoughts along these lines on Poynter’s E-Media Tidbits:

      http://poynter.org/column.asp?id=31&aid=134429

      I think the beatblogging.org folks could definitely make use of this!

      – Amy

    • I love this idea, JD. I’ve expanded on it a bit on my blog here:
      http://charlotteanne.wordpress.com/2007/12/13/call-out-the-posse-the-twitter-posse/
      I’ll launch a posse of students on it in the spring!
      ~C-A

    • JD: good idea, although you probably have given more than one journalist a headache just thinking about how to manage something like this ;-)

      I would also offer up the possibility of allowing such twitter posses the ability to “leave” their thoughts and interactions relative to a news story in both the physical space where it occured (using sensor based technologies like RFID, etc.) and on the Web so that people can contribute to a story for as long anyone wants. The idea is to not just “twitter and bolt”, but to allow stories to evolve and mature as the information changes and new perspective takes hold.

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