Scouring the Media

Twitter as a tool: what’s the potential?

Posted on: December 1, 2010

Twitter is recommended to journalists as a way to manage information on the go. From the scene of breaking news, Twitter updates, or “tweets,” are important pieces of information that give an account’s followers a description of events as they happen. Many news outlets already have accounts, like the New York Times, Bay News 9, and the St. Petersburg Times.

In a study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, statistics show that 76 percent of Twitter users read newspapers offered online.

Another reason Twitter is important is the value of each major newspaper having a Twitter account. Not only does Twitter link a newspaper’s followers to its articles quickly and easily, but Twitter accounts give a face to big newspapers that are sometimes seen as impersonal media machines. Twitterjournalism.com’s Tauhid Chappell wrote in his article “Why You Should Join Twitter” about words offered by Dr. Leslie-Jean Thornton, a professor from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

“To quote Dr. Leslie-Jean Thornton (@ljthornton) when she spoke at the VPA/AP Conference in Roanoke, ‘[These tweets] show how an institution can speak with a personal voice rather than an institutional voice. It’s not just pushing out headlines. It’s not just a machine.'”

Twitter is also great to join because it’s built around a user’s interest. If a user wants to follow different newspapers, sports teams, bands or local news stations, it’s as easy as clicking “follow.” Users can even receive real-time text updates from their favorite users. Even with a 140 character limit, companies have flourished on the social networking site.

Readwriteweb.com’s Marshall Kirkpatrick described one of the reasons journalists enjoy twitter–with the informality of the site, journalists can get out information quickly without having to write a length feature article first.

“We discover tech news tips on Twitter first on a regular basis. When Google bought Twitter competitor Jaiku, for example, we learned about it on Twitter,” Kirkpatrick wrote. “That early news tip lead to our covering the news before any one else and getting our story on the front page of Digg – good in this case for tens of thousands of pageviews.”

Not only are journalists successful in releasing breaking news stories over the site, but followers can also interact with newspapers and journalists by submitting replies or comments as new tweets. Kirkpatrick wrote that followers of his twitter account were eager to offer potential interview questions for Kirckpatrick’s interview with Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg.

“If was quickly evident that many people wanted to read his thoughts about data portability, but we got some other good question suggestions as well,” he wrote. “That’s becoming an increasingly common tactic for us and other writers, as it’s so easy to supplement our own questions with those of a larger network.”

So while Twitter may seem unnecessary for people to use as a minute by minute diary, by using Twitter journalists gain the advantage. Once a journalist builds a small base of followers, they can crowdsource for information as needed. Journalists can also use Twitter to give a play-by-play of potentially explosive breaking news. Although it’s not required to be a good journalist, Twitter is a great tool for journalists around the world.

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