Is Twitter a news source? When Twitter attacks!

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F1b has an account on Twitter (@formula1blog) as do many other blogs, celebrities, companies, teams, drivers and humans. The rage that is Twitter cannot be denied and while many have jumped upon the bandwagon (F1B included) there are those who are not so convinced of the relevancy of Twitter opting to seek other forms of social media to wile away their promotional and personal efforts. To them I say good luck. Finding a healthy, trustworthy alternative is no small matter and like any social media, by its very nature it is suspect at best but socially fun.

Twitter Formula 1

So what is this “Twitter’ thing anyway? Twitter is basically a search engine that searches what random people are saying. That’s the best generic description I can muster folks. It is called micro-blogging for those more sophisticated and “hip”.

F1 has its share of Twitter-enabled drivers, teams and PR people. Rubens Barrichello, Jenson Button and a host of GP2, F2 and minor league drivers all have a Twitter presence and it is indeed refreshing to see them engage the public and share parts of their lives with the fans. Juan Pablo Montoya is building radio controlled airplanes while Nelson Piquet Jr. meanders through Twitterverse in his native language. Rubens Barrichello shares family pictures and Danica Patrick discusses sewing. It is indeed an interesting medium to stay up to date on your favorite driver.

Twitter, however, has an insidious side to it. The “Fake” account. While professional people can get officially verified as the person they say they are on Twitter, others create accounts and pretended to be the celebrity whose identity they hijacked. A person pretending to be Sebastian Vettel fooled many and caught some serious 140-character wrath when it was discovered they were a fake. Even Jenson button questioned the faux Vettel account.

The dangers of when social media attacks via fake accounts. There are several we follow and know are legitimate. We also are reticent in believing anyone until proven genuine or verified by Twitter as official. This access to F1 personalities often breaks stories and the F1 Blogs were some of the first to start quoting Twitter comments from F1 luminaries as a source. What remained to be seen,at the time, is whether mainstream media such as AP, Reuters, Times, Telegraph et. al. would actually follow suit.

Eventually AUTOSPORT started quoting Twitter comments from F1 people as a source and I am sure there was much debate in doing so. Difficult to know if the account you are quoting is real or not and there is no doubt a series of standards they surely have set for themselves when considering to quote a Twitter comment as news source. One would expect that from the mainstream media as they have always been paragons of sourcing and verification. AUTOSPORT is no exception.

An interesting twist, nonetheless, when the old media begins quoting and using the new media as a source and it is merely a sign of changing times in a 24/7 news cycle. The insidious side of Twitter can bite, however, and it has most recently done so at the expense of Peter Sauber. Several news sources locked on to a fake Peter Sauber Twitter account that pronounced a second driver had been signed and would be announced this week.

Crash.net was sourced by Eurosport while Motorsport.com cited the much maligned and eviscerated GMM on the story. Skysport, F1-Live.com and Speed TV all carried the article as well. Motorsport.com did run a follow-up story breaking the news that it was a hoax as ferreted out by Brazil’s Grande Premio. Yes, I do understand the least common denominator here so spare me the emails.

This is by no means an indictment on any of these sites as the story was just “propagating”, as it were, through a news source and its subscribers. Fair enough, it happens. What this does show is how Twitter can be a valuable source for news while being a dangerous source for news at the same time. The source and comfort of your pain as it were (which we know is impossible to stomach).

The actions at Lotus have been revealed before public announcements through Tony Fernandes’s Twitter account. Other major news has broken in F1 through Twitter and perhaps 2009’s rage tweet by Rubens Barrichello is a good example or Lucas Di Grassi’s announcement that he had signed a deal for 2010. Then there is Nelson Piquet Jr’s plea for Juan Pablo Montoya to DM his as he needed to speak with him just hours ofter the Singapore scandal broke (not news but interesting nonetheless).

Twitter is a source and like all sources must be vetted before using but it is nice to know that the new media has offered the old media and fans a way to see behind the curtain…just make sure it is really Peter Sauber pulling the levers before quoting.

Mistakes happen and websites can be fooled, it is nothing new. Twitter is a source and we follow many people, on your behalf, and look to break news via the medium we exist in…the new media and the old media serve as opinion delivery vehicles for F1B.

Perhaps F1 can avoid the nasty collision between old and new mediums like the political journalism war? The “pajama’s media” or blogs that were breaking stories and exposing sloppy journalism and bias created a war of words that got very ugly indeed. The old media were caught with their pants down and asleep at the wheel in the political punditry world and to be honest, the war has been good for getting everyone to wake up and start reporting again.

F1 has a host of terrific journalists working hard each day to bring news about F1 to the world. The new media has also animated some curmudgeons prompting them to launch forth from the old media break rooms to unleash scathing indictments about F1 blogs and the use of new media without the authorship of venerable “establishment” people. The accusations are terse and often display an incredulous stare at the impact the new media has had on F1.

Fair enough, no one is denied an opinion in this world of F1 news and a lot must be said of true stalwarts of the F1 news circles who have spent a lifetime covering it. I think of Nigel Roebuck and others who have spent their lives covering a sport they love but I also think of Keith Collantine, Duncan Stephen, Andy at Brits on Pole, David Emmett, Brett Johnson, Jamie and Enoch, Clark and Nasir, Bob Hayes and Jules Cisek who all started blogs to cover a sport they love. All are just as passionate about what moves them and are insightful, knowledgeable and engaging in their coverage.

Let us remember that the established old media newsrooms have youngsters beginning their careers as well. They have people making mistakes, missing a source or falling prey to a lack of AP Stylebook acumen. There is a place for the old and new media to converge but in the battle of print versus digital media and distribution…I’ll place my bet on digital. We consume news too fast and too focused to wait for print.

As consumers of content, we look to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media outlets to sate a incurable desire to know and learn. There is nothing in an F1 Blog that prevents the consumer from doing just that in a more immediate and focused nature. Not every blog is a persons cup of tea. Not every print medium is either. I currently subscribe to a few of the print media from whence these curmudgeons come from and and pause with each renewal as the echoing rhetoric comes back to mind prior to me sending $200 for another year.

We will keep dredging the Twitter lake for the tweet bodies and report them here as we discover them. We will still remain a target of frustration and vitriol for the curmudgeons and reach out to F1 in an effort to bring it kicking and screaming in the the 2010 world. We will still remain the Journal of F1 Opinion in the world of F1.

Twitter is indeed here and while some have avoided it as a relevant medium others have fallen prey to its false prophecies proving yet again, that the new media is aggressive and present but it can leave you pulling back a bloody stump if you aren’t careful.

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