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ABC The Drum - Walking the Twitter tightrope. Updated Thu 30 Sep 2010, 8:34am AEST A challenge from a former Howard government spin-doctor on Twitter this week set me to thinking, not for the first time, about how journalists, especially ABC journalists, in the age of social media, can maintain and protect their impartiality. You should know first that I use Twitter mainly to disseminate work by other people that interests me.

I post links to articles, essays, video or audio, and jokes to leaven the mix, which reflect the fairly wide selection of reading I do on the internet every day. A proportion of what I post is also breaking news. So for example, when the deputy speakership was decided this week, I posted three 'tweets' in quick succession, giving the vote numbers: one from @annabelcrabb, one from the political blogger @mfarnsworth, and one from @ABCNews. In effect, then, I use Twitter as a "microblog". The spin-doctor, Ian Hanke, asked me this: "When you recycle other work how can you verify its accuracy? Twitter, Facebook, and social activism.

At four-thirty in the afternoon on Monday, February 1, 1960, four college students sat down at the lunch counter at the Woolworth’s in downtown Greensboro, North Carolina.

Twitter, Facebook, and social activism

They were freshmen at North Carolina A. & T., a black college a mile or so away. “I’d like a cup of coffee, please,” one of the four, Ezell Blair, said to the waitress. “We don’t serve Negroes here,” she replied. The Woolworth’s lunch counter was a long L-shaped bar that could seat sixty-six people, with a standup snack bar at one end. The seats were for whites. By next morning, the protest had grown to twenty-seven men and four women, most from the same dormitory as the original four. By the following Monday, sit-ins had spread to Winston-Salem, twenty-five miles away, and Durham, fifty miles away. The world, we are told, is in the midst of a revolution. These are strong, and puzzling, claims. Some of this grandiosity is to be expected. What makes people capable of this kind of activism?

Online - NewsPay. Prepping for a session for the International Press Institute (IPI) annual congress last week in Vienna, I asked the panelists, among other things, to describe a media trend they find encouraging.

Online - NewsPay

In addressing the same question, I found myself hooked by an idea that has no metrics but seems quite real nonetheless: a significant shift in attention from the diminishment of journalism to its rediscovery and reinvention. This sort of epiphany arrives at different times for different people; many digital pioneers have declared as much for years. The turning point for me came in the 152-page report on the future of news that I edited for IPI along with Poynter Online Director Julie Moos.

The report, “Brave News Worlds: Navigating the New Media Landscape,” was published last week. The 42 essays were written by news executives, leaders of nonprofits, digital thought leaders and educators from more than 20 countries. That’s not to say they’ll do that work entirely on their own.