Why manners make a difference when reporting from social media

Social media has transformed the reporter’s ability to find out what is happening in real-time – but it’s also an information source which is prone to misuse.

One of my biggest irritations in stories which are, at least in part, sourced from social media, is the tendency to just lift a Tweet or Facebook comment and pack it into a story in place of a regular quote.

The result is often a story which doesn’t read as well because, bluntly, the comments were designed to be quotes – they were conversational (Twitter) or statements (Facebook) – and generally not intended for use in news articles. Then, of course, there is the increasingly regular flow of complaints from people who didn’t expect to see their social media thoughts turning up in ‘news.’

There are two sides to this – one being that if something is said in public, you can’t be too irritated if it turns up somewhere else in public. But on the other hand, would you regularly jot down quotes you overheard in the street and then serve them up as a regular quotes in print?

Which is why I wanted to flag up a story in Huddersfield on Saturday where Hull City fans protested at a West Yorkshire Police policy of making them travel in a formal convoy – something called a ‘bubble match’ policy.

It’s caused – understandably – quite a stir, and the Huddersfield Examiner covered the story both live via Twitter and through the website and print edition.

I was particularly impressed when I saw this:


We all know ex-deputy PM John Prescott is a prolific Tweeter, often summing up brilliantly in 140 characters what he would have been mocked for if delivered in his bombastic style at the dispatch box.

He tweeted about the Hull City protest:



As statements go, it works perfectly well on Twitter. In an article, as a quote, does it work as well? To me, no. So full credit to reporter Nick Lavigueur for actually asking Prezza for a comment for the Examiner.

To me, his comment in reply is far better – for article purposes – than his previous Tweet, precisely because it’s intended to be a quote.

It’s not rocket science. It’s not a journalistic revolution. It’s just proof that some journalistic skills and approaches should transcend the different ways we now contact readers.

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