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Hashtags can be a payment gateway for journos

With the buzz around Twitter posts, it can even be a career option

Gulf News

I like the fact that social media is now used by senior officials to spread news, express positions, and even comment on events. Wondering why and how?

Because social media can be the next place where journalists can look for work opportunities after its spread threatened the existence of traditional media outlets. Confused?

Social media, which is free, has become a source of news to many. By being so, it affected negatively one of the important revenues of newspapers and other “official” media outlets, which are offering news for money and which do count on advertisements as a major source of income.

A lack of resources is threatening the existence of many media outlets and accordingly the bread and butter of journalists. I will focus on Twitter, since it became a platform for commentators to share their views on certain topics.

Presidents and ministers are among those using Twitter to make a point. I guess many of the officials using Twitter do have a team handling the task of spreading news and commenting on events, or sometime responding to “follower” inquiries.

Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj often reaches out to Indians (both in the country and abroad) through her twitter handle @SushmaSwaraj. One young woman sent her a tweet complaining that her passport was on hold since December 2016. (The message was sent 18 hours before I checked the minister’s Twitter account.) Surprisingly, the answer came in less than one hour.

“@SushmaSwaraj “Where have you applied? That’s what I want to know.”

I am sure you agree with me that how much the US president Donald Trump is using his Twitter account… it can’t have gone unnoticed. He relied on it during his election campaign and after his win.

I have one incident in mind, when he said refugees going to Sweden in large numbers are causing huge problems. “We’ve got to keep our country safe. You look at what is happening in Germany, you look at what’s happening last night in Sweden. Who would believe this? Sweden!”

Trump’s tweet was met with confusion and ridicule, especially in Sweden.

The Swedish Embassy in Washington tweeted a response, “We look forward to informing the US administration about Swedish immigration and integration policies.”

Another Swedish national tweeted “crime in Sweden has not increased over the last 20 years. On the contrary, Sweden is safer”.

Taking aim at claims Sweden is suffering from rising crime rates, he wrote: “We have around 100 murders per year. That’s like two days in the US. Two. Days.”

That is not all, when the Turkish-Dutch crisis over Netherlands barring a top Turkish diplomat from entering the country to address a political rally, a Twitter battlefield was created between the supporters on either side. The hashtag became a weapon.

Twitter is indeed a unique platform for politicians and politics.

A recent report by Abu-Dhabi based Future Centre said Twitter offers a short and precise content that is attracting people. Secondly, the wide spread of Twitter puts it at the top. Third, the “friendly usage on mobile phones and the easiness to track earlier tweets gives Twitter a favourable feature.

And the distraction of advertisements do not exist on Twitter.

Twitter, it seems, is also the platform for journalists. Journalists have the expertise to write, to follow-up, to spread and communicate with others. Officials, celebrities and VIPs cannot keep track of all their Twitter accounts. Can they?

They need a “professional team” of “former journalists” to handle the task. Journalists know the “juicy” words, have an attractive and personal style and, most importantly, they know to write in a few words.

The words of one of my mentors keep ringing in my mind: if you can summarise a whole story in a headline, you can write a story in few words.

So, here I am suggesting the establishing of a Twitter feed department for the public relations offices of VIPs, CEOs and businesspersons. These offices can advertise for jobs as following: #journlistswithtwitterexperienceneeded, or #forjournalistslookingforjobs, or #twitterournewboss.

I should keep thinking of more hashtags to inspire others!