After the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound was live-tweeted by Sohaib Athar, there has been a raging debate as to whether or not tweeting makes one a journalist. Are prestigious degrees from journalism schools — and jobs at storied institutions — totally unnecessary? Is a twitter account and being in the right place at the right time all it takes for you to put “Journalist” on your DMV application?
SF Weekly blogger Dan Mitchell argues that Athar is not a journalist, not even a “citizen journalist” (a lesser designation). Writes Mitchell:
For the most part, Facebook and Twitter aren’t organs of journalism, rather simply organs of dissemination (both of journalism and of sentiments like: “hell naw at 2 something n the morning i was tlking to somebody dat called me private lmao i was half sleep.”)
But Mitchell’s opinion by no means represents a consensus. Matt Rosoff at Business Insider wrote (in an argument Mitchell deemed “ludicrous”) that “Twitter Just Had its CNN Moment” after Bin Laden’s death: “Twitter was faster, more accurate, and more entertaining than any other news source out there.”
And at Gigaom.com, Mathew Ingram directly takes on Mitchell’s claims:
Whatever you want to call it, collecting and reporting information, putting it in context and then distributing that to others is journalism, whether Athar went to Columbia or not.
Perhaps the Twitter vs. journalism debate will take over the aggregation vs. journalism debate. Thank god. But regardless of what side traditional journalists come out on here, it’s clear that Twitter has leveled the playing field, it’s here to stay, and will provide more and more competition for breaking the news. Journalists had better get used to it.