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Atwitter with truth

Jim's Jams

November 14, 2012
Jim Krajewski ( , The Daily Freeman Journal

Jam of the Week: "Carl Sagan" by Blue Sky Black Death

The election is over. I'm sure you understand how nice it feels to type that sentence. There have been recaps of the election cycle that stretch back well before the Ames Straw Poll and some are already looking at 2016. Winners and losers are being crowned in the media, but one took me by surprise.

In a Time Magazine article discussing the winners and losers of the election, Alex Altman declared live tweeting a loser, saying, "A new tradition that became ubiquitous yet was almost never useful."

I was on Twitter during every debate during the election cycle. At least once, the social media website crashed due to the huge number of tweets being sent in the hour after a debate. In fact, MDG Advertising said that Twitter grew from 3.4 million users in 2008 to 24.1 million this year.

Social media has grown substantially in just four years, and people have taken notice. MDG also said 82 percent of adults get their election news online, and 62 percent of voters expect candidates to have a presence in social media.

So, social media is here and it's big. But, what useful information is sent on it during the debates? To be fair, I can understand why Altman might be exhausted with Twitter users after four debates. Jokes about Big Bird, horses and bayonets and a Vice President who couldn't stop giggling were some of the most discussed things on Twitter during the debates.

I'm not one to decry people for finding humor in the debates, but these memes aren't exactly constructive. However, there were plenty of websites that used the social media website to fact check statements and inform Twitter users moments after statements were said. PolitiFact, a Pulitzer Prize winning website run by the Tampa Bay Times where researchers and reporters fact check political statements and promises, live tweeted their fact checks during the debates. I often looked at their tweets to see past the politics of statements made during the debates, and it further informed me as a voter. Other news organizations also sent out fact-checks in real time during the debates.

Such instant feedback is rare in the debates outside of social media. The closest examples I can come up with are television networks showing the question a candidate was asked on screen, which shows if a candidate has shied away from a question, or CNN's insistence that we need real time bar graphs of how a handful of undecided voters feel about being pandered to.

Especially in this day and age, where moderator Candy Crowley was criticized for fact checking Mitt Romney's claim that President Obama did not call the attack in Benghazi a terrorist attack during the second debate, where else can the realm of fact checking exist? It could be argued that being on Twitter could make one miss the details during a debate, but with so many people watching and tweeting, it's unlikely most of the information would be lost. Plus, it was a fun thing to do while the candidates repeatedly called the election a "stark choice" or "the most important thing to ever happen on this rock floating through space and time."

Twitter is growing, it's here to stay and it's useful if you follow more news organizations than people trying to be comedians all coming in with the same material. If anyone lost in this election, it was the people who deny those truths, and Todd Akin. This spectacle of information won't rise from it's bed for another four years, but I fully expect it to be a bigger impact on the election as social media continues to grow.



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