Sunday, January 16, 2011

Coming soon: My 140-character PhD

I’ve been threatening to do a PhD for years.
Like a lot of people who come to formal education later in life – I put myself through a do-it-at-home MA when I was 50 – I’ve rather caught the academic bug.
Having spent 35 years honing the 20 word brief and the five-word headline the freedom of an 80,000 word thesis is both a frightening and liberating prospect.
But I’ve always struggled to find the right topic. Some ideas like ‘The Rise of the Popular Press in the Caribbean’ were too, er, unacademic and others such as ‘The Decline of Union Power and Influence in the Newsroom’ too big and unwieldy to pull off.
I’ve been lucky to have a number of serious academic friends who have pointed me in the right direction, told me where I’m going wrong and even advised to not even attempting the doctorate but concentrate on producing the book (part textbook/travelogue/memoir) that I’ve been teasing them with for years.
But now I have a new bounce in my PhD step, thanks to Twitter.
I’m on, you’re probably on, our friends are on. Politicians, stars from sport and showbiz, captains of industry (and a few sergeants @lordsugar) and of course those pesky media types are all part of the enigmatic, egalitarian 140 character world that is Twitter.
This is the biggest revolution I’ve seen in my time in journalism since I swapped the emergency piece-of-metal filler pic in my pocket for an emergency piece of waxed paper.
I’m a Twitter novice of just a couple of months. But every day I see something that I didn’t know, something that I hadn’t thought of and some people who I never dreamed would be sharing their loves, hates, hopes and fears with me.
I confidently predict – drum roll, please – that Twitter will have the biggest impact on journalism as we know it over the next two years. Just about the same time it will take me to finish that PhD...
Follow me on Twitter @alangeere