Sky News realises news breaks first on Twitter, not TV – Creates a Twitter Correspondent

TechCrunch has been saying for a long time – at least since November last year – that Twitter is an emerging source of news. Recent tragic events have only served to emphasise this.

As a result, this fact is now gaining traction amongst major news outlets and they are now paying special attention to Twitter. The latest example is the below leaked memo to Sky News staff in the UK, circulated to all staff yesterday.

We already know plenty of journalists are on Twitter and use it to hunt down stories. Hell, I’ve been doing it since 2006.

But the fact that a major news organisation like Sky News has now recognised it needs a dedicated person – Ruth Barnett is now their “Twitter correspondent”, possibly the first for by a 24hr TV news channel – to scour Twitter for potentially breaking news stories, speaks volumes. It also serves as a warning to those who might think that what they say on Twitter “in the clear” (in public) will go unnoticed by the wider world.

But it also raises interesting issues. The mainstream news media is watching us on Twitter. We in turn are watching them. But unlike the old days, you can block people on Twitter. Will Twitter users start to block journalists they don’t want to be followed by? Will news outlets start to not declare their Twitter profiles, in order to avoid this?

However, in their favour it’s great to see Sky News actually getting into Twitter. And at least they can now co-ordinate tea-runs via their tweets. Maybe Twitter’s useful for something after all?

This story will run and run…


THE POWER OF TWITTER: The Twitter phenomenon continues to explode. A phono with an eyewitness in Lahore yesterday came to us through Twitter. Last night’s breaking story on the death of a Briton in the Alps came to us from Twitter. The first phone on the Buffalo plane crash came from Twitter. The first photo of the Hudson River rescue came from Twitter. Convinced?

The Online team is using Ruth Barnett as a “Twitter correspondent” – scouring Twitter for stories and feeding back, giving Sky News a presence in the Twittersphere. If you don’t understand Twitter and would like a demonstration of its power as a newsgathering tool, the Grand Master of Twitter, Jon Gripton, is running a session in Meeting Room 5 next Tuesday at 1400.



Sky News has now got in touch to officially confirm my story that they’ve appointed a ‘Twitter Correspondent’. Ruth Barnett will take up her new role from Monday 16 March 2009. Although their original memo says she was pretty much already doing this, right? [Update: Editor @JonGrip calls it an “appointment” with an obvious nod and a wink].

Does she get a pay rise? I somehow doubt it. Curiously they released a picture of her in front of YouTube. Did anyone check that? More importantly they claim Sky News “has been using Twitter as a valuable medium for newsgathering since July 2007. If that’s the case then it took them a hell of a long time – until October 21st in fact – to get a SkyNews account on Twitter. According to comments below they have indeed had this account since July 2007.

Meanwhile, “Sky” on Twitter is a Mr Sukij, possibly in the USA. Valuable account that…