The Power of Twitter: Live tweets from inside the phone hacking trial.
With the trial now ended, it is safe to comment on this significant court case – any earlier and one could be liable for contempt of court if one wrote a prejudicial opinion about the case. This trial saw some of the most powerful people in the media put on the stand accused of perverting the course of justice, intercepting messages without permission and conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office. Regulating the press has been much discussed, particularly with the high profile Levensen Enquiry which saw celebrities and the families of victims give evidence of their experience of the press. Certainly the media – particularly and perhaps specifically News International – has taken a real beating during this trial and it seems rightly so, now that the verdicts have been given.
This landmark case was not a civil suit and yet the judge allowed Peter Jukes (freelance reporter) to take one of just 14 press places in the court and gave permission for him to tweet live every day from inside the courtroom. As an independent journalist Peter would need finance to be able to deliver the coverage. Two rounds of IndieGogo funding provided the budget for Peter to take “capturing the real time value of twitter” to a whole new level as the case lasted 7 months. The crowd funding raised more than Peter had requested – clearly people wanted his independent reporting and to have it direct from inside the courtroom.
The judge’s decision elevated Twitter’s status to that of equal or perhaps greater than that of the traditional press during this case. Peter’s clear, balanced and consistent 140 character updates (supported by his blog) have been highly commended and rightly so – Peter’s twitter profile has over 13k followers, including David Cameron and Rebecca Brooks.
The question of how the press were going to cover a case about misconduct within their own ranks has certainly been answered by Peter in these last few days. More commentary has seen column inches now the case is over, but it is riddled with inaccuracies and convenient misrepresentation of the case (for example Peter says the case cost £22 million but the press are reporting £100 million!).
Could this kind of independent journalism see more funding now Peter has broken this new ground? Twitter has been the prefered channel for receiving the news from this case – it already earned the status of trusted news source as people around the world tell their stories. Peter has been interviewed and his coverage reported upon by titles ranging from New Statesmen to the Guardian and even Sky News.
Twitter has been making changes to promote big news sources and publications by placing their tweets at the top of searches as suggested profiles to follow – this comes as a reaction to the rumours which sometimes make their way around Twitter with endless RTs – Twitter wants to be a trustworthy and comprehensive news source. Trending topics are highlighted as the most popular conversations taking place on Twitter in real time, so if groundswell is sufficient, attention can be started by the people closest to a particular story or issue within minutes. There is no doubt that Twitter is a powerful channel and this case has seen it used as a tool and quoted as an issue by the different sides.
People vote with their feet (and their wallets) and they want to have access to the news, but will the British public remember the crimes of the press and support more freelance journalism or will The Sun see no dip in readership? We often hear about communities harnessing the power of the people via Twitter (such as #riotcleanup) but will the press clean up its act?
What do you think of live tweeting from the court case? We’d love to hear from you – leave a comment below or tweet us @GertrudeAndIvy