GERRY RYAN, Ireland's most popular radio personality, died last week. And as people mulled over his passing, Una Mullally dedicated an entire page of the Sunday Tribune to how Twitter handled his death. Una probably doesn't think that "Twitter is for sharing". Her long essay, now a full page item in a Sunday broadsheet, effectively states that Twitter has become a news source. Mullally takes issue with how Adrian Weckler, the well-respected technology journalist from the Sunday Business Post, tweeted about rumours of Gerry's death. These first tweets were more like teasing out a story, not reporting on speculation. The RTE newsroom would not be prodded to report on tweets emerging about the story and as the day unfolded, Twitter's coverage of Gerry's passing became a story in itself. Personally, I think the blurring of the lines between social media and old media brings into clear focus the need for journalists to realise that their bylines may actually be their nics in other media. If you tweet from an avowed account during company time, many recognise you as the voice of the company. This is true for Fortune 500 CEOs, politicians, and clergy. As Gordon Brown discovered during the current British election campaign, even when the doors are closed and you're out of the glare of the following press, your muffled voice is still a story. The passing of Gerry Ryan generated a lot of tweets, retweets, online discourse, radio commentary and press coverage. Twitter became a news channel and its screen shots were used on long-running news channels in Ireland. Among the jumble of emotion and exchange of condolences, some voices on Twitter became headline news in Ireland.
I'll be surprised if local chapels of the National Union of Journalists in Ireland don't circulate some discussion about expectations of privacy, freedom of information and online banter by journos. Among the unwashed masses of people who don't tweet, a lot of what unfolded on Twitter when Gerry Ryan died reeks of collective insensitivity. Tweets received by extended family members before they know about the passing of a loved one can be shocking, distressful, insensitive and cruel. Today's technology pushes tweets to me as SMS advisories. If I learned via Twitpic that our family car was crushed by a lorry, the emotional scar would linger for decades. I don't want to inflict that kind of pain on anyone.
Mark Tighe and Gabrielle Monaghan -- "Miriam O’Callaghan sorry for Ryan tweet" on the front page of the Sunday Times, 2 May 2010.
Haewoon Kwak, Changhyun Lee, Hosung Park, and Sue Moon -- "What is Twitter, a Social Network or a News Media?", April 26, 2010.
Abigail Rieley -- "Broadcasting from the Water Cooler" on 2 May 2010.
Hugh Linehan -- "Journalistic ethics, Twitter and the reporting of Gerry Ryan's death" in the Irish Times, 4 May 2010.
Direct link to PDF: http://podcasting.ie/discuss/mullally_on_ryan.pdf
Direct link to MP3: http://www.insideview.ie/files/mullally_on_ryan.mp3