Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Grown-up Live Tweeting - The Value of Journalism Conference

Last Friday, with many collies wobbling in my tummy, I did something I hadn’t done for a very long time ... I went out to work.

I was on the tube by 8.00am, dressed like a grown-up, carrying lapdog in case and was even wearing make-up.

Where did I go to? The LSE ... where I had been told to say on arrival, “I’m with the BBC” which would lead to instant access to the lecture theatres in the bowels of the earth somewhere under Holborn. It had been such a long time since I’d said “I’m with the BBC”. The words still have a nice ring to them.

I was to “live blog” at the conference on “The Value of Journalism” run by the BBC College of Journalism in conjunction with POLIS (headed up by Charlie Beckett) at the LSE. I was positioned at the very front of the Sheik Zayed Theatre and then due to an unannounced gremlin, the live blogging programme wouldn’t load correctly. I was asked by Jon Jacobs (known to his many Twitter followers as @thoroughlygood) to live tweet the event.

My usual position for tweeting is on my sofa. If I look up I can either see a wall or the television. If I look to my left, if my husband’s around, I can see a snarling face and hear the words “Twitter is a thief of time” uttered as often as I care to listen to him. Live tweeting at the conference was very, very different. If I looked up I could see the panel of journalists about whom I was tweeting – and, terrifyingly, some of them actually smiled and nodded at me. If I glanced to my right, I could see what I was tweeting on a very large screen which – if I’d have had time to think – may have caused apoplexy but I was too busy listening, paraphrasing and trying to reduce some very erudite statements and arguments into snippets of 140 characters or less.

I wobbled beforehand but didn’t really have time to wobble during. I had wished beforehand that I hadn’t managed to dye my hair an Adams’ Family shade of jet black and that I hadn’t lost my right contact lens two days prior to the conference. Naturally, everyone would notice the middle aged biddy with jet black hair squinting lopsidedly into her reading glasses as opposed to paying any attention whatsoever to the journalists on the stage. The only thing that did make my stomach churn on the actual day was seeing live tweets from some very sensible names. My heart sank when I realised that I should really be known as @hardnosedjourno on Twitter rather than @RedMummy which didn’t really seem to sound grown-up enough for the task in hand. I didn’t have time to worry about it for too long.

Prior to the event, I asked one or two trusted friends if they thought I’d be “up to it” – one suggested that the people at the conference would be able to spot a fraud a mile off and the other thought it would be quite good fun if I didn’t enjoy what was being said as, apparently, my blogs/tweets are funnier when I’m grumpy. So helpful ... both pieces of advice instilled me with huge bursts of confidence!

How much trouble could I get into if I just stated what the people on the stage were saying? These people know what they're talking about ... Jon Snow, Janine Gibson, Danny Finkelstein, Steve Hewlett, Rory Cellan-Jones inter alia ... all well-respected journalists - how could I possibly go wrong? Well, as I was tweeting under my own name, I seemed to get into a fair bit of trouble with a few of my own followers who were somewhat bombarded by many tweets with the #voj10 hash tag. I did open tweet that I was live tweeting from a conference but had little option but to wave them cheerfully on their way when they unfollowed me. Oh dear ... how will I EVER survive without them?

It was a fascinating day and a very tiring one. I can’t remember concentrating quite as hard as that – well, since the last time I concentrated as hard as that. Would I do it again? Oh yes. I’m just waiting for someone to ask me!

Husband – of course – still considers that Twitter is “a thief of time” and says I should get a “proper” job. What he means is that I should get a job that someone pays me to do. Well ... I guess, on that level, he has a point – but oh heck – it felt good to be back amongst media people again. One freebie day can’t have done too much harm, can it? The very worst thing that could happen because of it would be for him to divorce me.

Now scanning job pages in local press for work as cashier in supermarket!


  1. Barbara Andrew16 June 2010 at 17:52

    Entertaining and witty as always Karen, I don't know how you did it at the speed you did and keeping to the 140 characters; chapeau.

  2. I found your live tweets fascinating and you did a fabulous job, I couldn't have done it that is for sure, my brain just wouldn't work that fast so pat yourself on the back :)

  3. well done you -now get back to being a big kid again please :)