Twitter 2014: Tweets ahead of the news again

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"Perfect" Mike Hosking.
"Perfect" Mike Hosking.

Twitter is sometimes criticised for being a nerdy, niche medium that is used by political insiders but no one else. But this week has again delivered some great examples of how Twitter can act as a leading indicator of political news.

The issue of Mike Hosking hosting TVNZ's leaders' debates showed how Twitter may be ahead of the pack. Hosking himself (@HoskingonZB) has been on Twitter since April 2009, but his tweets have remained largely uncontroversial. But that has not stopped the Twittersphere - which arguably has an inbuilt left-wing/liberal bias - from frequently making Hosking a target of pillory and parody.

Symbolic of the attention paid to Hosking by Twitter users has been the humorous fake account "Perfect Mike Hosking" (@MikePerfectHosk). Even before the announcement of Hosking as TVNZ's debate moderator, it was parodying Hosking's alleged right-wing bias to nearly 2000 followers daily: "Just so perfect to be able to come back from holiday and slam David Cunliffe for ...

going on holiday".

This parody account may well have inspired Jeremy Wells to impersonate Hosking with his own daily mock editorials on Radio Hauraki Wells was one of several people suggested as an alternative debate moderator to Hosking, using the hashtag #BetterDebateModerators. Among other sarcastic suggestions were Roger Douglas, Cameron Slater, and former broadcaster and current National MP Maggie Barry.

Winston Peters (@winstonpeters) also put up his hand: "Helpful suggestion for TVNZ. Solve the 'Hosking as moderator' problem by someone who is surely neutral. Yours truly. Just trying to help".

Against the background of mocking and ridicule, it was no surprise to see a wave of oneliners about Hosking hosting the debates. Nick Cross (@NW-Cross) alluded to another TVNZ presenter who has run into allegations of partisanship: "Hosking is far too biased to host a TVNZ leaders debate. Shane Taurima should do it instead".

Also this week, Tau Henare (@tauhenare) gave a "Twitter valedictory" - in place of a speech in Parliament.

Finally, if nothing else, Twitter has proven time and again that is a wonderful source of quotes. A tweet from disgraced MP Claudette Hauiti (@ClaudetteHauiti), made at the time she was entering Parliament to replace another disgraced MP, now seems incredibly ironic in light of her own forced exit this week: "Thanks Aaron Gilmore - looks likes its my time to shine! #parliamenthereicome".

• Otago University political experts Dr Bryce Edwards (@bryce-edwards) and Geoffrey Miller (@GeoffMillerNZ) are following the impact of Twitter on the election campaign.

- Herald on Sunday

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