OCTOBER 2015 UPDATES:
#1 The smart social media editor Sarah Marshall from The Wall Street Journal has recently posted some useful quick tips about how to use Twitter effectively as a reporting tool.
#2 Blogger and hockey tragic Dirk Hoag has a handy explanation of why some users place a full point (.) in front of a Twitter handle, as in .@Reporting4Work!
“It’s just a phase”, “Twitter will come and go in an instant”, “I don’t really understand what all the fuss is about with Twitter”, “Isn’t Twitter just a lot of babble?”, “I’m using Facebook already, do I really need yet another information stream in my already busy day?”
As journalists working in busy newsrooms, we’ve heard all of that and more … and we’ve probably been guilty of saying something like it ourselves, if we’re being honest.
But Twitter’s value to journalists has been growing steadily since it made its debut in March 2006 and today it’s pretty much an essential tool in a reporter, editor, producer or researcher’s professional toolkit.
Even Twitter latecomers are sitting up and taking notice as it makes its presence felt more and more in disaster, emergency, breaking news, beat coverage, crime, sports, business, politics and entertainment situations.
The good news is that its adoption has been recently given a boost by an improved list function: Yes, you can begin to tame the constant stream of messages flowing into your Twitter account 24/7 and group them under topic headings to save a huge amount of time.
So let’s look to those who know a little more about Twitter to bring us all up to speed.
For complete newbies
- New to Twitter and don’t quite know where to start? If you’ve truly never even set up a Twitter account, then start with Zombie Journalism’s four handy Twitter primers … while these primers are quite old now (2009), they do give newbies a starting point.
- The inimitable Steve Buttry takes journalist Twitter newbies through the basics.
The lowdown from the source
- Twitter itself understands how valuable its service can be for journalists, so it’s worth exploring its Twitter for Newsrooms web page at (and following its Twitter hashtag, #TwitterForNews)
- UC Berkley’s Graduate School of Journalism also has a good short primer that ends with a great list for journalists’ further reading.
Covering the bases
- Craig Kanalley has 10 tips for making the most of Twitter at and, more importantly, another post on how to verify a tweet.
- As Poynter’s Andrew Beaujon notes, more and more police and emergency services are turning to Twitter when things get busy.
- Even politicians are getting in on the act, as a Guardian story from about exclusives from No. 10 Downing Street explains.
- The Next Web looks at ways journalists and the media are using Twitter.
- Find Twitter a bit overwhelming when you’re trying to focus on just one area? Then read Nina L. Diamond’s great piece on how to use Twitter’s (recently expanded) list function, while Anthony De Rosa’s a huge fan not only of Twitter but also of Storify (a handy tool which we’ll cover a bit later).
- And if you still doubt Twitter isn’t taking journalists seriously, after a recent hacking scandal (which slammed the US newswire AP), then The Verge will set you right.
- Been around a bit longer on Twitter and keen to add some useful tools to your kit? Then Wired’s Lena Groeger rehashes all the oldies but goodies and adds some new treats.
Getting plugged in
- So, now you’re convinced that Twitter is around to stay and you’d like to keep up a bit more with what’s happening in the digital media revolution. You’re probably thinking “but my time’s a bit tight”? Then go to the Mediashift website and check out some of the podcasts that can be downloaded and listened to at will. Or you can visit your favourite app store from your smartphone or tablet and listen to Mark Glaser’s Mediashift podcast on the road or in a train or whenever you want.
And, remember, staying abreast of the technology wave sure beats being swamped by it.
Until next time, as they say …
Words: Trina McLellan