The discussion we had today on Twitter prompted me to write a couple of words about Twitter itself. As 140 characters is obviously not enough to share my opinion, I decided to puff away the dust from my blog and put my fingers on the keyboard.
What's the big fuss all about? Well, if you haven't seen it, Michelle Cound, Christopher Froome's fiancee tweeted yesterday about putting up with all the pressure and doping questions being asked. The discussion is, however, focused on this one:
"Maybe an "ex" doper can win the tour this year, at least he would be qualified to answer all the doping question."
She later said she didn't have Contador in mind: "I didn’t make any reference to Contador, nor did I intend to. I was on an overnight flight on Monday."
I checked. Only Spanish media wrote articles on it. Not surprisingly - the reference is clear, naming another "ex-doper" from Spain, that is one
of the main contenders for 101st edition of Tour de France, is as easy as keeping up with Froome riding away from Quintana on Mt. Ventoux.
Our Twitter discussion ended up evaluating Twitter as a valid and trustworthy source of information. For me - it is - as long as you know your sources, you understand the context and as long as you can verify the information.
First, look at examples I've got in my mind:
1) Every team has a website. They upload race reports and quotes after each race/stage. When riders are racing in Catalunya (WT event) and some smaller races in Italy, press officer or content manager is not teleporting and covering two races on site. I'm sure Twitter tickers and updates from local people come very handy.
2) Settimana Coppi e Bartali. No tv coverage, only live ticker on the website and Twitter. Peter Kennaugh wins, BBC writes a story on it, even quoting his tweet. Good for them, they found the right source and used it. What's wrong with that?
3) Women races - no live tv coverage, only a small number of people tweeting live. Of course, you have press releases and they often talk to riders afterwards, but initial reports and posts on Facebook (generating entries and money) are based on Twitter reports.
Twitter live-tickers are a great thing and help us all very much, no doubt about that. Getting the right source is important and if you talk to people who tweet and know more than others, you get the bigger picture. You just have to pick your sources carefully. Often Twitter may be a start - then you switch to emails or other ways of communication, where you elaborate on unclear issues.
I am not a journalist. I don't intend to call myself one. But I've been writing about cycling for some time and what I know is that you're responsible. Responsible for what you publish. Also on Twitter, especially if you're followed by hundreds or thousands of people. And there are many out there who use it to provide accurate news - either by tweeting or by posting links to their blogs/websites.
Now, we have Michelle and her tweets. Of course, she is close to Britain's cycling star so everything she says will be checked and some will try to make a story. So tweeting about "ex-doper" etc. is not the wisest thing to do.
On the other hand, I can understand her - he's been an outstanding supporter of Chris and it must be hard for her, putting up with all the nasty things people write and all entourage. I also understand that fans don't want to be fooled again and will be questioning some performances. But the way some of them express their opinion is, how can I put that politely, inadmissible. No wonder people close to a rider get upset. Well, we cannot do much about it, that's the Web, anyone can tweet.
Whether we like it or not, Twitter has become a serious source of information. Over past years we've seen it growing to importance - during Arab Spring, different conflicts around the world or sport events. But it needs to be handled carefully. Especially if you happen to be well-known. If you're following people to obtain information, you talk, exchange views, after some time you know what they think on the subject (in that case - cycling), when they take the piss out of something, when they are dead serious. And you see that somebody is upset and is tweeting just to shout it out.
I haven't seen any English-speaking media publications on those tweets so far, hope it stays that way. You just don't use emotionally written 140-character messages to make a story. It's wrong. Not professional. No, you just don't do it, if you ask me.
So you (journalist, blogger, whatever you call yourself) just have to be responsible. It's hard. Choosing and selecting. Knowing who you can trust and who needs double-checking. What is appropriate and what is not.
With reporting cycling, today everything seems easier. Over past
years things have changed - remember times when looking for a startlist
was taking hours, profiles of smaller races were a mystery and finding a
live ticker was bordering on a miracle? Today everything can be found -
easier, faster - and not only thanks to Twitter. But
the abundance of sources and data also means you have to double-check
and be careful when it comes to putting something online. Sometimes, one
hasty move can do a lot of harm, even if it's not your intention.