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Communicating through Networks

By Carmen Irish

Information is not journalism. There is plenty of information out there when you open Twitter or Facebook in the morning. Journalism is different. It valorizes information through solid, in-depth reporting, judgment, analysis and explanation.

As the public’s engagement with social networks is growing rapidly, Twitter and Facebook presented a number of advantages to ReThink08. Ultimately, social networking facilitated communication for our project. But like any new platform, we’re still learning how to use it most successfully.

Social networking platforms provide a forum and a medium for sharing information beyond the immediate community. One of the interesting things is that some people thought our methods were simply viral marketing. But our approach wasn’t so much to get a message out; rather, we wanted people to send information back to us. By providing mechanisms for building a network beyond the local level, Twitter and Facebook became great ways of engaging people into the conversation.

The emergence of news is just as important as its delivery. Drawing the public into the conversation presented itself as a challenge to the ReThink08 project. Our Web site saw a great number of traffic each day, but this was not always reflected in participation levels. Social networking helped draw participants to the Web site who otherwise may never have engaged, but it did not always serve as a guarantee of public engagement.

As the role of journalism in society is changing dramatically, the digital revolution has changed how we communicate. Information is being defined by output and medium. Far more information is supplied each day than we can manage, let alone absorb. News providers have been forced to adopt new technologies sometimes before its usages are completely suited for the journalistic environment.

The two sides of Twitter

Take Twitter, for example. In order for its application to work as both a tool and a resource, one must be able to navigate throughout as both a sender and recipient. Its information becomes a cloud of data if you are unable to work in both atmospheres. More often than not, information-rich media are not being used to their full potential.

Every media system functions under certain restraints, but the culprit is not technology itself. The mere presence of technology with both senders and receivers is insufficient for truly effective communication; both ends of the communication process must know how to use the technology effectively, and the message itself must travel through the connections well and arrive clearly enough to be understood. If understanding doesn’t take place and allow a meaningful response, then the information process succeeds only in showing itself off.

Read Carmen Irish’s profile of David Erickson
See Carmen Irish’s timeline of events in the 12 months after the election
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