Del Jones, who makes a living interviewing CEO’s for USA Today’s Money Section, became the latest reporter to promote their Twitter aptitude with a Money Section cover story today on CEO’s tweeting (Well, it was supposed to be about the USA drifting away from capitalism toward a European-style hybrid of capitalism and socialism).
However, it seems Jones may have learned a lesson that Stephen Baker of BusinessWeek learned last May when trying to piece together a story purely through Twitter.
Twitter’s 140 character limit doesn’t cater to a colorful story. As Baker noted in November of this year in an interview with RaceTalk:
Stephen Baker: The story “Why Twitter Matters,” came out in May, a week after I opened up the live thread with the Twitter community, which allowed them to contribute to the story (May 8-9). Anyway, I got a lot of input, but the trouble with it was people didn’t want to write paragraphs. I was hoping they would craft the story with me. They just wanted to give me ideas and leave the story writing to me.
RT: I imagine it was tough for them to contribute 140 characters at a time?
SB: Yes. I thought they may try to write paragraphs together (140 characters at a time). When I set it up I thought it was going to be so easy. I would write the topic sentence for the paragraph and while the responses come in, I can go off to the Modern Museum of Arts and enjoy myself for half an hour – and then come back to see the paragraph constructed. It ended up being pretty chaotic and took a lot more work than a regular story.
The one difference between the two examples being: Baker set out to write a story about Twitter using Twitter, Jones simply set out to write a story using Twitter that ended up having more to do with Twitter than his intended subject matter (Guessing the editors played a role in that as well.)
As Dan Gilmor notes in his own post about the USA Today Twitter-piece today, the end result of a reported story centered around 140-character blurbs is, not surprisingly, a disjointed one.
In fact, Jones story reminds me of a former USA Today column – Larry King’s discontinued one, which included Mr. King’s disjointed conscious stream in no particular order (I’m guessing that is why Larry has taken to liking Twitter so much). Only this piece isn’t as fun, given it’s the disjointed thoughts of many people and it comes on the back-end of the huge WE GET TWITTER plug from USA Today (pictured above).
Yes, Twitter (as a part of social media) may be a huge piece of the future of journalism. The New York Times apparently gets it and it is likely that the USA Today understands it as well. But the future of journalism isn’t pieces like this…. At least I hope it isn’t.