BBC finally assumes people know what Twitter is

A few weeks ago the BBC News website ran a story entitled Hundreds on Armstrong Tweet ride. It began:

About 300 people have joined an impromptu bike ride with cycling legend Lance Armstrong after he issued an open invitation on a Twitter post

Interestingly, the story doesn't say what Twitter actually is. Until now, the Beeb seems to have felt the need to explain that it is a "micro-blogging service" (as in this story from April), a "social messaging network" (as in this story, from the same month), or a "social networking website" (as in this story, again from April).

So does the Lance Armstrong story mark a change in house style? Without trawling through dozens more stories on the BBC News website - which I may do if I get bored - it's difficult to tell...


Gareth said...

I think a more worrying trend is the BBC's new tendency to quote people on Twitter as if their opinion counted for something.

An example would be

"...on blogging site Twitter one fan said he was "still confused", while another called it a "massive letdown"

"Michaelvjjones posted on his Twitter page that the show had been "very interesting & entertaining"..."

and so on, all the way through the story.

I'm not sure why the BBC think that using Twitter gives your opinion any validity. It's the equivalent of saying "we asked a completely random member of the public what he though and he told us". I do get the impression with all of this that they are trying too hard to be current, and that in a few years' time people will look back at the Twitter fad and wonder how they got so caught up in it.

Unknown said...

Twitter is great for spreading the word. New search engine launches on 1 October 2009, which has social networking features. This will leave the others standing!

Dave Lee said...

@Gareth. I see what you mean, but then isn't Twitter just a good way of obtaining a public reaction on a big issue? (Or even a small issue, for that matter.)

My point is, sometimes it's not an expert that we're after - more just your regular man on the street. Man on the tweet, if you will.

Watch any news bulletin on the telly and you're pretty much guaranteed to see at least one vox-pop. That is, a segment of talking heads from a high street somewhere. It's not that what they're saying bears any real weight - it's merely a way to get the general 'mood' of an issue.

I think Twitter is a very effective way of doing this online, no?

(Disclosure: I'm a BBC journalist.)

JD (The Engine Room) said...

Dave Lee: at least with a TV vox pop you can see that the person giving their opinion isn't obviously a raving lunatic. Also, you have an idea of their sex, age and so on. Quoting from Twitter it is much more difficult to convey that sort of information along with the actual opinion.

Gareth said...

Dave, apologies for not responding sooner but I didn't notice your post.

For me, the key thing is that Twitter is enormous and it is possible to find pretty much any opinion you want at any time. This means that when Twitter quotes appear in a BBC story, it means one of two things. Either the journalist has cherry-picked certain opinions to back up the point he was trying to make (in which case it is fairly poor journalism), or a "representative" range of opinions has been included (in which case it is all rather irrelevant).

It all boils down to "we asked [random person] and they said [random thing]". If I wanted to know what an ordinary person thought of something, I'd ask them (and I'd have some context to understand their opinion). I don't need the BBC to do that for me, and I'd like my news sources to be a little more authoritative than this.