Saturday night I joined millions of Twitterers around the world to follow the news about the post-election protests in Iran in a news medium more exciting, terrifying and awe-inspiring than anything I had experienced before. I was participating in Twitter’s news revolution. It felt like news via lightning-strike.
As a former student of political science and sociology, I watched the tweets rolling down my screen with rapt attention. There were first hand stories, live videos, disturbing photos, historical summaries, and political analyses by activists, students, journalists and citizens of the world.
For most of Saturday night, as the Twitterverse exploded with tweets about Iran, CNN and other U.S. mainstream media were not covering these stories, or if they were, the reports were buried beneath reports about Six Flags and Sarah Palin.
Twitter was my ground zero for news. It was intimate and participatory. I read tweets sent directly from a brave young man stranded on a rooftop in Tehran, and then forwarded them on (or “retweeted” them) to my Twitter followers. I added comments, found links to news stories and blogs about the protests online, and passed those along as well. I Twitter-searched “Iran” to see what people all over the world were saying about the protests, and then followed their posts for hours.
As a lawyer-to-be, I strongly believe that the Twitter news revolution promises immense opportunities for the legal profession. Lawyers have specialized knowledge and a unique understanding about issues that affect policy and the public. When citizens around the world are discussing breaking news like potentail fraud in Iran’s elections and what the U.S. government should do about it, monumental U.S. Supreme Court decisions and what they mean for individual citizens, peace deals or military strikes, or natural disasters and subsequent government responsibility, lawyers need to be listening to and contributing to that conversation.
If you already have a blog, it is easy to feed those stories into Twitter feed using Twitterfeed. Even if you don’t have a blog, you can still become a legal thought leader on Twitter by passing along the articles that you’re already reading (New York Times, Wall Street Journal, etc) to your followers, and becoming a trusted source of legal/political news. I know that 140 characters is a tight limit per Twitter post (especially for a profession fond of verbosity and Latin phrases), but you can use sites like bit.ly to shorten your links.
Becoming a legal news thought leader on Twitter will not only bring you followers among other lawyers (and hopefully future clients or referral sources), but also among journalists looking for quotes and sources. On Twitter this weekend, reporters and editors like CNN’s Senior Editor for Mideast Affairs Octavia Nasr (@octavianasrCNN) retweeted stories, photos, video and commentary about Iran by thought leaders, journalists and citizens around the globe.
Before Twitter’s news revolution, my guess is that you’d need one heck of a press release, or perhaps a common relative, to get your opinion or legal blog post to be noticed by someone like Ms. Nasr. This weekend, as news was breaking, she, and thousands of other reporters and editors were online Twittering, culling sources and information from the Twitterverse.
Next time a major news story breaks, I’ll be back online tweeting and retweeting, writing and sharing news in the moment. Will you be there with me?
(photo: Steve Rhodes)