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Twitter: A Creepy Source of News

June 17th, 2012 · No Comments · Dubai, Football, Maradona, soccer

I am a bit stunned at the idea that people get their “news” from Twitter.

The system is fine for instant opinion or random complaints or raves. But it’s less believable, as a new source, than just about any medium ever invented. “No filters” is the operative phrase here. The guy sitting next to you on a bus is about as authoritative and maybe moreso, because some people can’t lie with a straight face.

Case in point today, involving Diego Maradona, coach of the Dubai side Al Wasl.

In the twittersphere, a couple of items went up about Maradona being fired by the Al Wasl club, and attributed to news sources here in the region.

The idea then took on a life of its own. As tweets sometimes do. One of our reporters began scrambling to track this down. You have to, just in case … which is a pain, lemme tell ya.

Within an hour, someone had actually called someone at Wasl, who denied the Maradona-fired tweets. And Wasl’s official Twitter feed also denied it. And, according to various tweets (so, of course, not authoritative), one of the “news sources” alleged to have reported the firing took it down.

Meantime, our reporter, doing some real reporting, came across some comments made in a TV interview by the owner of the club, one of the Al Maktoum sheikhs, and he was thoroughly negative in his remarks about El Diego, calling the season a disappointment, and expressing his puzzlement at why the team did not do well.  “Maradona was unsuccessful at Al Wasl and I do not know the reasons for it.”

So, Twitter seemed to have led us somewhere, even though the specific “firing” from the network clearly was not yet official.

Someone at those sources just took a leap, perhaps based on the TV interview with Sheikh Ahmed. It was a calculated gamble at being “first”.

Generally, when a sheikh says a coach has been “unsuccessful” and uses the past tense … that coach’s UAE career, going forward, can be measured in hours.

I was writing a comment piece that involved Maradona, and as the day went on, with news (from our reporter) that the new Wasl board was going to meet that night, enough doubt was introduced into the equation that I wrote two columns. One assuming Maradona’s status was shaky, one for if he were fired.

Generally, writers prefer not to write multiple columns. But what if Maradona were fired at 11 p.m.? I didn’t want to have to replace my column with a new on written in 15 minutes.

So, end of day, the new board comes out and one of the members tells our reporter that, no, Maradona has not been fired and they expect him to be the coach for the next season.

The key parts of this are in this news story, which appears in the Monday editions of The National.

The point being, some random opinions — guesses — on Twitter skewed people’s viewpoints and changed their days. And were demonstrated to be incorrect.

In this blog, Vince Doria, a key executive at ESPN, talks about why he has never tweeted and has no plans to begin.

Approach Twitter as you would any media anywhere — with skepticism. Except bring even more of it.


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