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Howard Kurtz's Media Notes: How Twitter Users Are Changing the Landscape

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Amy Salit: "Twitter is a great newsfeed; a blog that you can fashion to fit your own interests, with the potential to be much more."

Mary Dellaporta: "Twtr certainly offers insight into the exponential lack of substance that IS the banal journalism of neo TV anchors & pundits."

Jon Braunstein: "Twitter feeds our desire for real-time play-by-play of the world. Instant, impressionistic news."

Joan Stephens: "A lot of interesting links to stories the MSM doesn't cover."

Newsjunkie365: "Since Twitter my web surfing for news has greatly decreased. Now the news comes to me."

D Tollison: "I like it because I feel like I'm 'in the room,' like when I read your tweets."

Jamie White: "In many ways it is replacing 'over the fence' and chatty phone calls."

Such comments capture the digital ethos: news hand-delivered and informally rendered by people you like (or like to argue with). The New York Times, which has hired a social media editor, recently launched Times People, which allows readers to follow Times reporters, click on articles they recommend and respond to other commenters.

A number of operations are exploiting the phenomenon known as crowdsourcing. Take the consumer review site Yelp, where legions of ordinary folks in metropolitan areas evaluate restaurants, shopping and nightlife.

On his Recovering Journalist blog, former Washington Post reporter Mark Potts calls Yelp "a very powerful tool. . . . Why grapple with clumsy newspaper entertainment-guide and calendar interfaces, and take the word of a single, over-stretched reviewer, when you can quickly see what the crowd is saying on Yelp about the place you want to go?" Of course, the wisdom of the crowds is not always infallible, and reviewers often bring experience and discernment to the table.

The connective tissue here is a network of strangers whose opinions you come to value. On Twitter, I follow people as varied as ABC's Jake Tapper, AOL founder Steve Case, cultural critic Touré and comedian Sarah Silverman. But I also hear from all manner of partisans, bloggers, publicists, politicos, students and stay-at-home moms.

Twitter has its tedious side. I don't have something fascinating to say every few minutes, and neither does anyone else. But in this era of corporate downsizing, journalists had better get good at making friends.

Not Safe for Work

The Huffington Post, a strikingly successful site with all manner of news, blogs and video, has been playing up photos of exposed female flesh.

When Natalie Portman, Beyoncé and Pamela Anderson have wardrobe malfunctions, Arianna Huffington's site provides the evidence. There has been a spate of pictures and slideshows with such headlines as "Guess the Celebrity Breast Implants."

Washington City Paper's Amanda Hess finds this jarring for a liberal site. Readers, she writes, "care so much about nipples that the Huffington Post devotes pages and pages of photographs to them when women accidentally (or, you know, against their will) reveal them to the public. In that way, there's no difference between the religious conservative who is scandalized by a bare breast popping up in the middle of his football game and a liberal Web site which devotes its resources to naked chicks. A woman's body part is a priority. Real women's issues, not so much."

Huffington dismisses this argument by e-mail, calling it "silly and highly limiting to assume that all progressives can't wait to get to the orgy and all conservatives have a chastity belt in their drawer. . . . As the Washington City Paper's blogger herself points out, we have a wide range of news and opinion on all our sections -- including our Entertainment section.

"Looking for hidden political agendas in every article and every photo on HuffPost will lead to some very convoluted conclusions. As Freud said, 'Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar' -- and a nipple slip is just a nipple slip."

Liberal Comeback

Progressive radio returns to Washington this month as Air America takes over 1050 AM, which had been Federal News Radio, under a deal with Bonneville International. The station, which plans to add local programming, launches months after Redskins owner Dan Snyder pulled the plug on ratings-challenged OBAMA 1260.


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