Twitter: A journalist’s best friend, a fan’s dream, the end of the world as we know it

In October 2010, @immassey was born. Relax; don’t go telling your friends that the New University is employing a toddler; I was born in 1991, but my Twitter … that’s another story. For this article, at least, the 140 character maximum can eat my shorts, no … slacks, we’ll keep this discussion corporate casual. One hundred forty characters can inform, inspire, offend and misconstrue. It can also connect you to Kim Kardashian or Tim Tebow and even find you a job; but be wary, it has its downfalls.

If we believed everything we read, Jose Canseco would be receiving a Pulitzer Prize for reporting the death of Al Gore last week. Last I checked, he’s still alive, but is still searching for Manbearpig, #SouthPark.

For some, Twitter is a parsimonious (#SATword) alternative to therapy. Why pay a professional when you can tell the whole world all about your problems?

For others, it’s a chance to belittle everything, everyone, anything and anyone. When San Francisco 49ers returner Kyle Williams blew the 2012 NFC Championship game, tweets called for his head, along with the rape and murder of his wife and kids. Williams is single and childless.

#YouOnlyLiveOnce friends, but what have we become? Some of our ancestors built walls, risked their lives to traverse the globe #backwhentheworldwasflat, and fought for their color’s and/or country’s freedom, only to pave the way for high school students to be expelled for offensive tweets; students to destroy their future employment process with inebriated mutterings, racist spouting and obnoxious vulgarity. A skeleton is rolling in its grave somewhere as you tell the world that you just rolled a joint.

I created my Twitter account in order to point traffic toward my New U articles and my personal website, I now despise it 2,254 Tweets later, but it truly is a journalist’s best friend.

My Twitter handle now allows me to provide in-game analysis of Anteater sports and an outlet for me to spam followers with #FireNorvTurner postings while scratching my head at the San Diego Chargers’ lack of a desire to win football games. That’s not all I contribute to society: I also retweet the occasional pickup line, that’s what she said, or OMGFacts, like this little nugget: “The world’s largest pencil is 76 feet long and weighs 22,000 pounds.” It’s pathetic, but everyone’s doing it, right?

Aside from the abusive and therapeutic nature that entices some to destroy their reputations and others’ credibility via the web, not all “Tweeps” (Twitter peeps/people) should be sent to the guillotine for transgressions. In a social media community that is enveloped with negative hashtags, falsely reported news and reputation destruction, there lies an overarching technological advantage that attracts many of us to the little blue birdie.

For starters, an outpouring of support has flooded in for the family of Trayvon Martin, an African-American child who was killed by a neighborhood watchman who claimed the boy looked suspicious because he was wearing a hoodie. The way in which authorities responded to the case has had the country up in arms, while athletes and celebrities alike have taken platforms, posting pictures of themselves in hoodies and spreading trends, such as #WeAreTrayvonMartin and #Hoodies. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are two of many who have made an impact with social media statements in order to spread awareness of the boy’s story to millions.

Twitter has an unmentionable amount of benefits, from inciting social uprising for the downtrodden in the Arab Spring to spreading news in an instant, whether it’s factual or fabricated. Instead of a tape recorder, journalists can now use controversial celebrity tweets for their stories.

David Price of the Tampa Bay Rays plays “Call of Duty” with fans. Chad Ochocinco of the New England Patriots once tweeted, “Still waiting here on a game invite in #Fifa 3 million followers and not 1 person is available to get beat. (Esteban 85),” as he waited patiently for a fan to play Xbox with him. Athletes have never been closer to the average fan. Some kids would rather play a game of “Halo” with their favorite athlete or receive a retweet on their birthday, than acquire an autograph. Welcome to the 21st century!

It’s a luxury to be able to scroll through Twitter at dinner or while sitting at a red light. I often pan across OC Register columnist and Lakers beat writer Kevin Ding’s analysis of a Lakers game, whether it’s two hours after the game and I’m looking for a quick recap, or if there’s two minutes left in the game, I’m constantly refreshing @KevinDing’s tweets when the game is on the line. The same goes for The Daily Pilot’s @BarryFaulkner5 when I can’t make it out to a UC Irvine baseball game. I do the same thing when it’s tournament time for the Anteaters; it’s informative, interactive, it’s the new wave of unfiltered journalism.

But in sports, a box score can only tell you so much. It can’t tell you that Andrew Bynum just sat on the bench joking around with teammates while Mike Brown was steaming over his 3-point attempt with the game on the line. It can’t tell you that Connor Spencer, a freshman on the diamond for the Anteaters, just belted out an exceptional rendition of the national anthem prior to smacking a triple at Cicerone Field.

That’s why readers trust journalists who have been called upon to share these stories for centuries, a day after the fact. In an instant now, the journalist can spring to action on Twitter, without an editor’s approval or spell check, in order to get the first scoop on a story. With the decline of print media, today’s daily journalist is faced with a sink-or-swim scenario: adapt to the times or adopt a new career.

Journalists were born to inform through accuracy and entertainment. Today, we compete for follows, views and comments with an audience that often times would rather talk about Jose Canseco falsely reporting that Al Gore died via Twitter, viral trends such as #OnceYouGetMarriedYouCant and celebrity belittlement.

There’s a Catch-22 that goes along with instant media gratification. Twitter is like a virtual high school. There are the gossipers (@KimKarashian) and the nerds (@sanjayguptaCNN), the drama students (@jessicaalba), the jocks (@JocknCJ – UCI’s Charles Jock), and the starting pitcher who’s a pretty cool guy, but his 2.0 grade point average begs to differ and he’ll either be wearing pinstripes at the local Footlocker or at your local penitentiary for the next 20 years (@charliesheen). When they graduate (log off of Twitter), we hope they’ll go on to do something productive with their lives. Some will never leave high school (Twitter) in their minds, just don’t let that be you.

There are bigger and better opportunities, folks, so don’t let your high school/Twitter days hold you back. There’s always a source out there, but you can’t trust all of them. That’s the beauty in a newspaper. Who knows how long this publication and others can stay afloat in paper form?

In a day and age where we compete for retweets, laughs and attention, remember the proverbial saying, “Journalism is the first rough draft of history.” There may be errors from time to time, or a bias that may not be your cup of tea, but as print media continues to decline and social media has become the new you, appreciate the physical copies of the New U, and other print newspapers. Time is running out for papers, so grab a few copies while you can, and whoever you choose to follow on Twitter, trust the ones who work hard for their stories. If Canseco is your source for news, please seek professional help — and please, please, please not in the form of Twitter followers.