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CNN all a-twitter about Reuters NewsMaker

March 17, 2009

Last week’s Reuters NewsMaker with Financial Services Authority Chief Executive Hector Sants in London was opened up to all-comers via the micro-blogging service Twitter and attracted the interest of CNN‘s ‘International Correspondents‘ show.

CNN knows a bit about Twitter — the fast growing service that lets you broadcast SMS-length texts and which, with the help of ‘tweeters’ from President Obama to TV personality Stephen Fry, is rapidly entering the mainstream.

CNN’s ‘twitterstream’ is top of the table when it comes to ‘followers’, according to Twitterholic.  And ever since last year’s Hurricane Gustav, CNN anchor Rick Sanchez has been harnessing Twitter to solicit news and views from viewers and contributors and has built up a huge following in the process.

So what could Reuters possibly show CNN when it comes to Twitter?

What caught the CNN crew’s imagination was our use of Twitter to create a live channel from Reuters readers to our NewsMaker.

Ahead of time we had publicised the fact that Hector Sants was coming in and had agreed to take readers’ questions. We asked readers to add a question to our blog comments or to go onto Twitter and to use the askfsa tag.

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As word got around about what we were doing dozens of Twitter users started sending in comments and questions.  My role was to monitor them (most came in during the event) and to pick out the most interesting ones to put to Sants.

CNN wanted to know where was the journalism in that. Answer: same as ever — filtering large amounts of information for the nuggets (there were more than 200 questions and comments) and trying to pull together any themes.

They also asked why the FSA couldn’t have done all this by itself? After December’s NewsMaker with David Cameron, I had asked a similar question of the Leader of the Opposition’s social media advisor. The response: even if you have the skills to handle such events you’ll be open to accusations of stage management if you don’t outsource moderation to someone independent.

The CNN piece has yet to air. But, in one of those role-reversals that marks out social media, one of the bloggers invited into the event live-streamed part of the CNN interview via his mobile phone — so you can see some of the raw material that may end up in the final report.

UPDATE: The International Correspondents piece has now been broadcast.

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