In Defense Of Twitter

A historic Twitter moment.

Over the weekend, the internet embarrassed itself once again when a Penn State student website called the Onward State prematurely reported Joe Paterno’s death. At 8:45 PM on Saturday, the website tweeted: “Our sources can now confirm: Joseph Vincent Paterno has passed away tonight at the age of 85.” CBS Sports, The Huffington Post, and SB Nation — all in a rush to get their stories up first to rank well in Google — posted stories of their own minutes later without attributing their information or checking their own sources. The Paterno family debunked the news shortly thereafter and a lot of yolk was on a lot of peoples’ faces.

The student editor of the newspaper stepped down hours later, but the aftermath has spread far beyond that, not the least of which has been the many voices blaming Twitter for the spread of false information. Ronnie Ramos of the National Sports Journalism Center offers a counterpoint here, positing that the problem is not with Twitter itself, but with simply reporting responsibly in any medium.

We here at Russian Machine happen to think that Twitter is awesome. While of course there are pitfalls to such a rapid-fire, scoop-obsessed form of news sharing, that speed itself and the ways in which information is able to be shared are changing news media every day. Mistakes happen–especially when information is not properly sourced and credited, which is a lesson that we learned again this weekend–but the sheer volume and accessibility of information is at an all-time high, even for the casual newsreader, or the casual fan.

Where Twitter has at least as much, if not even more value, though, is as a community-building tool–you can find those who share your interests by doing no more than simply clicking a hashtag. It can be great for concise, short-form discussion (CROSBY SUX!!1 / NO OVECHKIN SUXX!!), great for a communal joke (#Sh*tCapsFansSay)–and absolutely unbeatable for venting and reacting in the moment. Ravens choked at the last moment? Yell “NO! NOOOoooooo” on Twitter, as well, my entire feed did Sunday afternoon. Mad about Alex Semin’s latest stick penalty?

Commiserate with a thousand of your closest friends. (Video via Peter Robbio of Chirps From The Ledge)

Mistakes and incorrect stories are hardly a new phenomenon in journalism, and it’s worth noting that as quickly as an erroneous story can be spread on Twitter, it can just as quickly be corrected, as it was in the Paterno story in that same wildfire social-media way. We love Twitter because we love you guys, all six thousand of you — it’s not quite like being able to watch a game in a stadium and talk to every single other person there, but it’s getting very close.

Additional opining by Ana Hansen.

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  • Heh, how timely this is! On Friday afternoon someone told the folks at District Sports Page that the Caps Road Crew were in Raleigh for the game, and without confirming they put up a blog post about it.  

    This was completely false; in fact most of the regular Roadies were instead at Penn Quarter Sports Tavern for the Caps viewing party.  The CRC had no group going on the road for that game (their group will travel to RBC Center on Feb. 20th).  The head Roadie and Director of the CRC got in touch with them and the blog post was removed.

    Then, early in the game the RMNB twitter account sent out a message to the Caps Road Crew saying “LET ‘EM KNOW YOU’RE THERE.”   

    It was an honest, if careless, mistake. Kudos to RMNB for owning it.  I hope things like this drive you folks to better yourselves.  In the mean time, keep up the good work.

  • Sam,

    It does. Trust me.

    I think we’re all painfully embarrassed when we screw up — even on the tiniest and most inconsequential of things. And yeah that tweet was totally my fault the other night. I still feel embarrassed now that you remind me of it! Haha. Thanks a lot!

    I still haven’t heard who took the buses down that night. Was it the Caps Fan Club?

  • It was the Caps Fan Club.

  • Sorry, dude, I wasn’t trying to embarrass you.  I found it a little amusing that the word spread the way it did!  If I recall, someone mentioned hearing Al Koken say the CRC were there.  Shame on him!

  • How did that go? I’ve never ridden with the FC.

  • We left a little late, so we didn’t make it in time for the start of warm-ups. But other than the Caps sucking more than a vacuum that night, it went pretty well. 🙂

  • Me

    Does anyone else like Semin? I think he’s gotten better (like Ovechkin) since the coaching change.