Twitter Week for Journalists: DAY ONE –What & Why

Filed in Journalism , Twitter 36 comments

Whether it’s violent protests in Egypt, character assassination of the Chicago Bears’ Jay Cutler, surprising new talent discoveries, or natural disasters, the “NEWS” is reaching us faster — intersecting with us where we are.

photo by Susan Ambrosini

At the forefront of this evolution/revolution is Twitter, the social media platform where simplicity is part of its brilliance. Twitter has changed the way we define news. Having to keep messages to under 140 characters, tweeters are breaking news and defining trends — getting out information to the world that in the past might never have been reported.

By the time many journalists can get in to cover a story, it has broken on Twitter, been discussed, and passed off as old news. Therefore, today’s print and broadcast reporters must provide analysis and perspective to add value to the conversation. They can use Twitter to do just that: Journalists have access to a real time people search engine that can tell them what millions of people are thinking about one single topic in any country around the world.

In mid-2010, Twitter had 100-200 million users (depending on the stat source). On a daily basis, they posted 26 million tweets and searched the site 600 million times. More than 300,000 new users were joining every day as well.

While a significant number of Old School journalists may still be treading water defending what they know and “want to be true,” a growing number of today’s and tomorrow’s journalists are building knowledge, networks, and influence as professional Tweeple. Here’s a link to ten of the most experienced Twitter users that every journalism student ought to follow.

Has Twitter changed your work life?

Below you can read how six online journalists describe the impact of Twitter on their careers and their evolving definitions of news:

I am journalist and I do read newspapers, watch news etc.. but I notice that more and more I get my “Breaking News” from Facebook/ Twitter… Sometimes you just don’t have time to turn on the TV or read an online newspaper. I predict that consumers will subscribe to news via services like this that operate only on Twitter, Facebook etc.. and that perhaps this services will be linked to the major news-services of the world.
Posted by Mayra Rocha-Fernandez

Working at a twice-weekly community newspaper, Twitter has helped us keep a more “daily” feel to our product. We’re able send out short bursts providing some info (game scores, council decisions, etc.) while at the same time leading followers to either our print or e-editions. Of course, at the same time, we’re competing with others (fans, parents, bloggers) who tweet such information.
Posted by Michael Gresham

I am a veteran political reporter covering Canada’s Parliament and the use of Twitter by MPs and cabinet minister has exploded over the past couple of years. We have even had MPs had to rise in the House of Commons to apologize for tweeting the proceedings of an in camera committee meeting or for commenting on another MPs weight.
For me, twitter has become a valuable source of tips about breaking news on Parliament Hill, another way to communicate with sources and a way to call attention to stories we report.
Posted by Elizabeth Thompson

I think you’re right, but I don’t see that as a good thing. As a lifelong NJ (National Union of Journalists) member, I believe that this drive toward social media, etc., is dangerous. Sometimes you need more than 140 characters to explain the important issues, but “people” are too busy to consider the larger picture or the background. No one has the time to listen or read the full story and what happens is that people beleive they know about a particular matter, when they haven’t got an idea about what’s going one. Thank you for your post.
Posted by Greg Smith

I use twitter and fb to promote my articles or when there’s breaking news that I see in the sports world, mostly with the Chicago Cubs. I use it to receive other breaking news, but it can really get out of hand. I have started to cull names from who I follow. There are some people who use it and it seems like nonsense to me. It is a valuable tool for taking and receiving info related to your business… at least it is for me. As for limiting things to 140 characters, I agree that’s not always enough, but that’s where you can link to longer articles. In our busy lives, sometimes we don’t have enough time to read everything in deptth, so 140 characters to let us know what’s going on is more helpful than being in the dark about an issue.
Posted by Miriam Romain

If used correctly social media is an important and valuable tool needed to reach the masses and those not attracted to news. It is not a fad and if used in the right effective way is not dangerous either. I teach journalists how to use social media “correctly” and once they realise the right way, it’s amazing how hooked they are. However, there are many, especially management who seem wary of it.
Posted by Emma Lingard

Join the conversation: How has Twitter changed your work life? What do you predict for the future of news and journalism?

[Correction: an earlier version posted 600 million Twitter users, but the source seems to have vastly overstated the case]

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Posted by Shari Weiss   @   30 January 2011
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Feb 1, 2011
12:21 am

I am actually writing up something that I would like to share with the class re: Twitter, and the social Media block in Egypt. I would really like to get other opinions on the situation.

For now, I am commenting on the comment that was within the article.

“I think you’re right, but I don’t see that as a good thing. As a lifelong NJ (National Union of Journalists) member, I believe that this drive toward social media, etc., is dangerous. Sometimes you need more than 140 characters to explain the important issues, but people are too busy to consider the larger picture or the background. No one has the time to listen or read the full story and what happens is that people believe they know about a particular matter, when they haven’t got an idea about what’s going on.”

I’ve had the conversation before, about Twitter being a viable news platform before. And, I believe that it is – but, journalists and audiences/reader have to realize it’s capabilities and limitations. It’s a fantastic tool to break news, and to update news, but obviously it is not the place to go to as your sole news source, or to read about an issue in depth.

When I read news, I operate on the mantra that “you can’t believe everything that one person says” So, why only rely on one news source, or two news sources for information? When there are so many news and social media platforms why not take advantage of them all? A story breaks on Twitter – you read a bit more about it on a blog, that then gives you a link to related articles etc.

I think that there is this false sense that just because information is released via traditional news forms it is correct/authoritative – and that information released via Twitter or Blogs is not fact checked, or that it is all personal opinion.

Author Feb 1, 2011
1:35 am

Suzzanna, we will post your comment on the new Facebook Journalism 65 group — that I will add class members to AS SOON AS they “friend” me on Facebook. So now you know what YOU need to do, right? i.e. Be my FB friend 🙂

Feb 1, 2011
12:47 am
#3 Mariana C S Rogedo :

What & Why. I was experienced twitter first time yesterday, and everything sounds to me like a deadlines. Than now, reading this article on your blog, make me think.
1 – positive aspect – twitter is faster. Everyone gets information in a short time. But since we have 140 characters, like Greg Smit said, “sometimes we need more than 140 characters to explain the important issues (…).”
2 – make me thing how information became some how kind of superficial. We read deadlines and we know what is going on.
3 – Of course, i do agree that Twitter and all social network are changing news. Changing how people get the information, but i would say thats only positive because i believe the information we are getting starts to be more superficial. We are in the situation when we know everything but anything at same time!

Author Feb 1, 2011
1:33 am

so people certainly need to develop their critical thinking skills even more, right?

Feb 1, 2011
1:49 am
#5 Mariana C S Rogedo :

@Shari Weiss – For sure they do need to develop their critical thinking skills, but i was wondering how superficial communication can be, with only 140 characters. Is it enough to be informed?

Author Feb 1, 2011
1:55 am

Think about what news is. If we just think of news as something “new” that is starting or going on, then certainly “hearing” the fact is news . . . and that fact can be stated in the 140 characters. However, lots of the value of Twitter is sharing LINKS to more indepth stories. And those indepth stories — with analysis and perspective is what I discussed in this post.

Feb 1, 2011
1:51 am
#7 Mariana C S Rogedo :

they, we need to develop.

Feb 1, 2011
2:47 am

I use twitter like some people use the ab-roller. I see it as a tool to exercise my wit.

Author Feb 1, 2011
12:42 pm

cute, Talia. I like the ab-roller analogy EXCEPT my own personal ab-roller is hiding somewhere in a corner . . . sadly unused 🙁

Feb 1, 2011
2:59 am
#10 Talia Taylor :

…and to follow up on my last comment, seeing as I pressed the submit button a bit too soon…

I think twitter is better off being used as a tool to exercise creative devices, not to attempt to tell a complete news story. For example, just yesterday, a tweeter posted “R.I.P. Nelson Mandela”. With a simple click of the button, this tweet could have been retweeted and next thing you know, rumor would have it that Nelson Mandela is dead.

Tweets such as the aforementioned have pushed me away from wanting to report “news” via twitter. It is a huge responsibility that one day, I hope to be brave enough to undertake.

Author Feb 1, 2011
12:43 pm
#11 Shari Weiss :

Talia, your additional comment here brings two things to mind: (1) How deliberate we must me when we post anything online and (2) how critical/cynical/thoughtful we must be when we read anything online.

Author Feb 1, 2011
12:26 pm
#12 Shari Weiss :

from LinkedIn group Online Journalism:
Allan Jacob • Twitter is set to fritter away decades of journalism. All on board!

Sasa Milosevic • I like to say
Twitter is more for professionals while Facebook is for killing the time and gossiping.

Feb 1, 2011
10:52 pm
#13 Billy Rivera :

Until recently, I had only used Twitter as a platform to keep in touch with fans of my music, and stay connected to pop culture related “news.” I really love that you can only use 140 characters per tweet. Writing a tweet feels poetic to me; almost like creating a new form of “twaiku.” As a songwriter, it’s a great exercise in keeping those big emotional thoughts on a small scale, forcing me to become editor-in-chief of my own brain.

Now I use Twitter to stay informed with a plethora of platforms including breaking news stories. I can understand how the “old school journalists” are now competing with amateur bloggers to keep the news current. If one wants a true eyewitness account of a breaking news story, we know Twitter has them in herds. In the current Web 2.0 era, Twitter allows everyone to be a journalist on the news front. It’s only a matter of time before their handing out Pulitzer’s for Tweets.

In response to Greg Smith’s comment about Twitter being a “danger” because you can’t fully explore the bigger picture. I personally think that we should only be reading the headlines in a tweet. Most journalists working for the big publications include a link in their tweets to the full article on their websites and news blogs, so the reader has the responsibility in knowing that there is more to the story.

Author Feb 2, 2011
12:46 am
#14 Shari Weiss :

Billy, this is EXACTLY the kind of blog comment that earns people LOTS of Extra Credit.
I’m going to post it on our Facebook Journalism 65 group. Please “friend” me so you can join the group . . . and see your comment.

Feb 1, 2011
11:02 pm
#15 Billy Rivera :

To continue on the exercise metaphor started by Talia:

I think of Twitter as my cardio machine. Sometimes it’s like running on a treadmill, when you’re strapped for time, and others it’s like a long workout on the elliptical, where you really take the time to click on all the links and Twitpics to get the whole story.

I look at my ab-roller like reading the newspaper. You know it’s boring and may hurt in the process, but if you stick with it there is always a payoff.

Author Feb 2, 2011
1:52 am
#16 Shari Weiss :

Billy, one of the “hidden treasures” of Twitter is the context, i.e., the other Tweets you see whenever you post or look [kind of like checking a word in the dictionary and getting to see all the nearby words].

The problem is that people want to do everything automatically. Over and over again, I say that if everyone is posting automatically, who is there to read the posts?

Feb 2, 2011
1:20 am
#17 Mariana C S Rogedo :

@ Billy Rivera
140 characters sounds to me a headline. I have to confess, as a journalist, i’m not sure if i like twitter, even though our teacher gave us many examples, and quotations from journalist in other article. Maybe just because i’m new using it.

You said at the end of your comment that “the reader has the responsibility in knowing that there is more to the story”. I do agree with that, but i was wondering if Twitter and social network in general will create a habit when people read the headlines and believe they know everything. Just read 140 characters will be enough. So, in my opinion, thats can be mediocre / poor.
What do you think?

On the other hand, i was reading today a book about contemporary business communication about overcoming information anxiety, and according to this book (Fundamentals of Contemporary business communication), people in today’s information-laden society are being bombarded by more data than they can absorb. For example, every year the average American reads or completes 3,000 notices or forms, watches 2,463 hours of television, listens to 730 hours of radio, reads 100 newspapers, talks on the phone 61 hours, reads 36 magazines, buy 20 records, and reads 3 books.
So, the book says: “more choices simply produce more anxiety”. And that process of anxiety – create a hole between data and knowledge and people realize that they can’t learn about everything. “The first step in overcoming information anxiety is to accept that there is much you will never understand”. (…) other suggestions include separating what you are really interested in from what you merely think you should be interested in and minimizing the time you spend reading or watching news that isn’t relevant to your life. They ended saying ” most information is useless. Give yourself permission to dismiss it”.

Maybe reading 140 characters its a way to dismiss it!???

I was wondering about other thing. I read last semester that a guy in a big company (i guess was asia) post on his twitter when he went to restroom: no toilet paper. And in a short time, people went to restroom to help him. What do you guys think about that?

Should the medium (Twitter) be used for any type of communication.
I believe we should have a plan… What do you think?

Author Feb 2, 2011
2:12 am
#18 Shari Weiss :

@Mariana, lots of interesting information and opinions here. Hard to comment on everything, so I’ll just pick the question at the end, i.e., should Twitter be used to help someone find toilet paper?

One of the characteristics of our American democratic free society is that we don’t have a “should” when it comes to forms of communication. Of course, the government makes laws to restrict certain forms of communication that will harm others. But the government does not tell us what we SHOULD do with any medium. That allows citizens to make decisions for themselves. Obviously, with all the “noise” online, many many many people waste time and effort. But WE don’t have to, do we?
What do you think?

Feb 2, 2011
3:15 am
#19 Billy Rivera :

Please forgive my “editor-in-chief” for overlooking the grammatical error “their” instead of “they’re.”

Feb 2, 2011
3:27 am
#20 Billy Rivera :

@Mariana, @Shari,

I once tweeted that I was hungry and no more than 20 minutes later, my boyfriend, whom I live with, was in the kitchen making me a snack. So I can definitely relate to the restroom story. Among other things, Twitter is the new intercom!

Author Feb 2, 2011
12:57 pm
#21 Shari Weiss :

Hmmmm, Billy, how about “intercom-ing” that I will have office hours tonight Wednesday at F205 at Laney

Author Feb 2, 2011
11:10 pm

From LinkedIn Group: Online Journalism

Discussion: How has Twitter changed your work life

Christopher Schwartz:
I’ve dealt with both Twitter and Facebook during the crises in Kyrgyzstan (for and the WikiLeaks stories of 2010 (for RFE/RL). In both cases, I found that Twitter was more often used as a way to spread misinformation, hearsay, or worse, whereas Facebook, which by its very structure can regulate what information reaches one’s profile (depending on the protocols one has chosen for one’s social network and privacy), was much more useful in real terms to spread usable or actionable information and to help organize humanitarian and journalistic responses.

Indeed, so far in my experience, Twitter’s only proven utility as a vehicle for some organizations to shape the terms of debate, e.g., WikiLeaks, Rixxstep, and the Operation Payback folks in December 2010. There’s of course some journalistic use in that, but only if one is canny enough to understand what’s going on, for example:
Posted by Christopher Schwartz

Feb 3, 2011
1:14 am
#23 Mariana C S Rogedo :

@ Shari, @ Billy

Certainly Billy’s example of hunger can be compared with the distress of toilet paper. As in your example and mine, the message was sent and had back instantly.

I believe in freedom of the press, and in my opinion is very valid, but my point when i was writing it all up was to questioning the relevance of all we have seem posted on twitter or social network in general. I do believe its relevant to say that Billy got “rescued” in 20 min, but in my opinion, the contacts between people are becoming increasingly virtual and superficial.

We are bombarded with information all the time and we can not absorb them.

My question was more in the sense that people perhaps are going to accustom themselves to read the deadline and get it as the information they need to know. Thats the new and i don’t need to go deeper with it.

Furthermore, it is not necessary for the professional communications, since everyone has access to means of communication and can publish their “news. ”

To answer your question (Shari @). I do not think people have to / should waste their time.

Feb 3, 2011
8:18 pm
#24 Amanda Rodriguez :

I now understand how twitter and facebook play such an important role in the new media world. This morning I was watching the news and they were showing peoples twits on what was happening in Egypt.

Author Feb 3, 2011
11:26 pm
#25 Shari Weiss :

@Amanda . . . and ALL: Check out #journ65 on Twitter where one article talks about the Tumultuous Week for Twitter last week.

Feb 3, 2011
11:49 pm
#26 Kevin Jennings :

I agree with all six statements about what Twitter brings to the profession of Journalism. It is quick, micro, and convenient, but as Greg Smith said, sometimes you do need more than 140 characters to inform readers on a subject. But its understandable why Twitter has become so favorable, its informative and fast.

@Shari i really like when said this “Whether it’s violent protests in Egypt, character assassination of the Chicago Bears’ Jay Cutler, surprising new talent discoveries, or natural disasters, the “NEWS” is reaching us faster — intersecting with us where we are”. This quote shows the the very best part about Twitter, its universal. Anything can be discussed on Twitter and anyone can be informed by it.
And on a side note i do generally hear all of the news from Twitter.

Feb 4, 2011
12:46 am
#27 Kevin Jennings :

This response is to @Suzzanna Mathews first post.
Im so glad you stated that “you can’t believe everything that one person says”. i think that this is the one rule Tweeters forget to process when it comes to taking in information. i also agree with the fact about people placing traditional news as official and authoritative when in-fact it could also be false to. Great comparison.

Feb 4, 2011
1:45 am
#28 Mariana C S Rogedo :

@ Kevin Jennings

I agree with you. as Greg Smith said, sometimes you do need more than 140 characters to inform readers on a subject. But its understandable why Twitter has become so favorable, its informative and fast. Also i do agree that – Anything can be discussed on Twitter and anyone can be informed by it.

But i think everyone should be careful about sources. In my opinion we can’t trust all sources.

Feb 4, 2011
4:23 am
#29 Stephanie Ortega :

You can say that twitter is a good way to spread information out to people in a faster way then a newscast or newspapers can.

Those who blog have a limit to how much they can write on their blog. Just like news cast and newspapers have a limitation on what they say, so they just say or write the key facts of a report.

A good way some news blogs can save some words when they are writing a blog is if they put what they think is the main points in a summarized way then the attach the article URL. That would then let those who want to know more about the report could just read the full report.

What I feel that news journalist need to do is that after a report is being spreads on twitter and those who get there news reports by the television or newspapers they need to dig deeper since they cant access the internet, on what is going on and spread information. Also I think it important to show footage of what is going on in the report you are going to inform people about.

As I sat here I thought about twitter and how it could be like paparazzi in two senses. The first sense is in those those who are following someone wants to know what is going on with them by reading every blog or tweet they say.

In the second sense is in the way that if someone see something happening they are going to write about it. They are the first one to write a blog or tweet on news that no one knows. Which would then help a person follow them since they act like paparazzi in knowing information before anyone else does. If the person were known to give valid information and show some kind of proof, then they would be followed. You don’t want to get information from a phony, or follow one either.

Author Feb 4, 2011
1:28 pm
#30 Shari Weiss :

Stephanie, from reading your comment, I am not certain if you understand the difference between blogging and microblogging?

Feb 4, 2011
5:05 am
#31 Champa Mulchandani :

I couldn’t agree more! I think Twitter is the future of news reporting. In my opinion, Twitter allows not only journalists, but citizens to become journalists. Not only are you able to express your opinion, upload pictures and even leak out information that is withheld, but you have no blocks, no censors and definitely no one telling you you cannot/are not allowed. Twitter means you can go ahead and call out a situation that is being ignored. This is exactly what most people are gravitating to.

With the current situation in Egypt being so grim, it is via Twitter we can really feel the pain, see the strife and understand how heart wrenching it is when you read tweets from locals who are simply suffering. Via the news wires, all we see is what they want us to see; no real life, real time information is really given to us.

Author Feb 4, 2011
1:50 pm
#32 Shari Weiss :

@champa . . . very well stated. This is a very good example of a blog comment that reflects on what was written and offers personal insight as well as new “news” or facts.

Feb 4, 2011
12:42 pm
#33 Kevin Jennings :

@Marianna Re: But i think everyone should be careful about sources. In my opinion we can’t trust all sources.

Yes i think we all should. Usually i try to find (in my opinion) a credible source and save them in my favorites, so whenever i hear a topic or story that’s in their interests, i go check it out with them to confirm a story.

Author Feb 4, 2011
11:11 pm
#34 Shari Weiss :

LinkedIn Group: Online reporters and editors
Discussion: Has Twitter changed your work life? If yes, then please tell me how you use Twitter AND what you predict for the future of this platform regarding NEWS, i.e. the reporting and making of it.
I signed up for it four months ago … and am surprised at how much I like it. I initially had reservations for the reasons Greg mentioned, but that’s where providing URLs come into play. It’s a great way for me to find stories that would otherwise slip under the radar, and it gives me the opportunity to connect with people I normally couldn’t reach. I don’t have a large following nor use it to break news, but I hope those things occur in the near future.
Posted by Latrice Davis

Oct 21, 2011
1:17 pm

Social media has made a very big impact and its not possible to stay disconnected from the social media. Its completely true that breaking news first gets tweeted on the social networking sites and then on the television. I’ve noticed this many times. The way social media delivers all the breaking news is really fast.

Dec 14, 2011
7:27 am
#36 Gladys Shepard :

Nelson Mandela”. Also i do agree that – Anything can be discussed on Twitter and anyone can be informed by it. They are the first one to write a blog or tweet on news that no one knows.

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