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Twitter is a useful tool, but old media carries more weight; Columnist.

Byline: David Banks

THERE'S no fooling that keen-eyed Journal columnist Keith Hann: the moment he saw my Tweet, he knew it was a wrong 'un.

"I lost weight without having to make any major diet changes while boosting energy levels!", I had apparently Tweeted to everyone I know. "And here's how I did it!", I gushed, directing this fat man's followers to a website where visitors were invited to make a cash investment in David's Amazing Drop-A-Dress-Size Diet.

No, of course it wasn't true. As Mr Hann cruelly pointed out: "...your Twitter account appears to have been hacked by someone trying to sell a magic weight loss formula. YOU, of all people!" There followed a steady trickle of wind-up messages, all in similar vein: a couple of TV presenters, an LBC newsreader, two ex-colleagues from Australia and one from New York (nothing if not cosmopolitan, old Banksy!) and a cheeky chuckle at my They feed on groundbait is Remember that take it as gospel. expense from a national newspaper editor. All highly amusing, you might think. Except that it happened at what might be a watershed moment for the mass media: the day when the number of UK Twitter users reached 10 million, passing the 9.5 million who buy a newspaper ever day.

"Life is Tweet," declared former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, a man who feels wronged by the Fourth Estate and claims online that "Twitter is OUR media, with the public as news editors - it's given me a connection to millions of people that the distorted prism of the mainstream media denied".

He celebrates a social media whose "people power" he claims forced the News of the World to close, helped set up the hacking inquiry and even forced Rupert Murdoch himself to become a Tweeter. But he misses a couple of points.

Unlike heavily-resourced and - yes, despite recent scandals - largely-trusted and paid-for newspapers, social media - while instantly inclusive - is free to use and just as free to forget: worldwide, two-thirds of its 393 million registered users have fallen by the wayside.

Twitter's real power still lies in the hands of influential, over-opinionated individuals like actor Stephen Fry (4.3 million followers), footballer Rio Ferdinand (2.7m) and Prezza himself, whose 132,000 followers admittedly puts @BanksofEngland and his 61 pals to shame.

They feed on rumour; their groundbait is gossip. Remember that when you take it as gospel.

CONVERSATION at the Red Lion stretches into the least imaginable areas, soaring high above the realms of roadkill and dominoes and then plummeting right back down again.

Someone mentioned Jimmy Carter, 39th president of the USA and perhaps remembered better in these parts as a Freeman of Newcastle, an honour bestowed on the single-term leader almost 35 years ago to the day.

"I met him rumour; their gossip.

when you when I worked in New York," I boasted, "the year the voters dumped him because he couldn't free the US hostages in Iran." "Never mind all that," snarled the foregathered Young Farmers (average age 68), "we're taakin' aboot his right as a Freeman tae graze two milch coos on the Town Moor."

And from Jimmy Carter, Nobel Prizewinner and international statesman, the chat switched as fast as the Byreman gets rid of a double-six, to Jack Inchley of Spital Tongues - a legendary cattleman in these northerly parts who used the drove roads to steer whole herds from Hexham Mart to Scots Gap.

"Jack used to graze cows on the Town Moor, even though he lived in a second-floor flat," said Billy the Kid.

"Aye," said the Byreman, "and he used to sit on top of the double decker that ran round the moor so he could 'look the beasts' every evening for a sixpenny fare."

Everyone fell to nodding reflectively and draining glasses.

You got the distinct feeling that Jack and a couple of Border collies would have had those hostages out of Iran quick-smart.

Sorry, Mister President.
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:May 18, 2012
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