So, with Twitter somewhere betwtixt the "So Hot Right Now" and "Backlash To The Whole Premise Of Whether It Is Now Or Has Ever Been Hot" stages, it's worth asking the question, once again: Is this Twitter stuff actually being put to some sort of substantive purpose? And the answer is yes, actually! Over at C-SPAN - that's right, staid old C-SPAN - the folks at Washington Journal are using Twitter to great effect.
Here's what they are not doing:
1. Reading the kneejerk reactions of Twitter users aloud, on the teevee, for no good reason.
2. Admonishing the viewing audience to follow their in-house celebrities on Twitter every five minutes. (Like I do, admittedly!)
3. Entering into stupid dares with Ashton Kutcher.
And, more to the point, instead of getting all saucer-eyed with amazement over Twitter, C-SPAN and Washington Journal (@cspanwj) have kept the use of the service mission-focused, instead of Twitter-focused. By which I mean, they're more concerned with how Twitter augments their reporting than reporting on how shiny Twitter is. Twitter has become another bridge by which the Washington Journal audience has been reliably and successfully interacting with the show's guests, and THAT'S IT. And, with a little common sense applied to the exchange, where nonsense gets appropriately weeded out, Washington Journal has been demonstrating that this nation of Twitterers is capable of making substantive contributions to the discourse -- and even help make news -- using this medium.
A trip through the archives demonstrates that yes, there are Twitterers out there with brains:
A May 18th exchange with former Senator Bob Graham on Hill torture briefings features a good question from the Twitterverse, wondering just how highly classified a meeting that takes place at the at the Hart Senate Office Building could possibly be. Graham takes the opportunity to start making critical distinctions between briefing venues:
Here, a Twitter-user asks Secretary of Transportation how energy consumption can be reduced by improving transportation infrastructure, and it leads to news being made about light rail and LaHood's fact-finding trip to Portland.
Here's Twitter being seamlessly brought into an open-call segment:
C-SPAN has made it their mission to include the public as much as possible in their news coverage. C-SPAN launched just over thirty years ago, on March 19, 1979, and by October 7 of the following year, they had added viewer call-in shows to their programming mix. Ever since then, C-SPAN has been one of the most constant points of access between the public and the officials that make the policies that shape their lives. Twitter now expands that access point, and the cable network is doing a fine job, mining Twitter for its utility instead of exploiting it as a fad.