Wednesday, May 7, 2008

replacing pundits with people

Watching returns from the North Carolina and Indiana primaries come in last night, during the pause in counting in Indiana that seemed nearly endless, I tried something new: I set up a Twitter search (using Summize, since Twitter inexplicably doesn't have its own search function) for the word "Obama."

What poured into my screen changed the way I took in the news of the evening: a near-constant stream of opinion, news links, straight reports (I saw the switch from a 20,000 vote spread to a 16,000 vote spread on Twitter before it was on the New York Times). Even this morning, during the time it has taken me to write this post, 31 more Tweets have come in covering topics from Obama's letter to Superdelegates to personal notes about how people feel about Obama today.

It offers a unique glimpse at the public psyche, rolled out in real time and filled with the kind of cacophony of voices that allow you to know it's truly real. It's an interesting alternative to the canned pundits trotted out by the networks, and the me-too political bloggers offering increasingly homogenized opinion.

Twitter is, of course, not a replacement for longer-form news, but it's one of those unique, couldn't-have-done-it-before additions to the ever-growing definition of news.