How journalists can use Twitter

by John Einar Sandvand on January 30, 2009 · 5 comments

Twitter is much more than sending status messages. Here are four smart ways journalists and editors can use it in their work.

A few days ago I described 5 great Twitter tools for journalists. There are dozens of them, of course, and picking the best ones will always be somewhat unfair. Yet I tried to find some that I thought might be of particular use for my own professional group.

I wrote the posting as I was preparing a presentation about Twitter that I will give to web journalists at my employer Aftenposten – a large Norwegian media house.  At the same time I have reflected about the different ways journalists and editors can use Twitter in their work.

I think there are four main ways of using Twitter in journalism:

1.  Communication tool

More than anything else, Twitter is a communication tool. And it can be great as such. For journalists it can be a quick way to connect and discuss with sources and experts.

2.  Source for news stories

We have seen numerous examples recently of how Twitter can be an important source for news stories, especially if journalists are good at searching for the right topics.  At big and unfolding events, like the Gaza war or presidential inauguration, journalists may pick up valuable eyewitness accounts from many sources at the same time.

Many journalists have been able to pick up news about accidents almost immediately after they happen. Let me give you two airplane examples:

3. Editorial production tool

Twitter messages can be sent and published in a matter of seconds from any mobile phone or computer. And because everything going on at Twitter is available as feeds,  the content can be included on any other web site at will.

This makes Twitter a good tool for live blogging. Media can set up channels for readers to use, for instance by agreeing on which hashtags to use. In that way content from hundreds of people can be aggregated into the media web site.

In the same way it can be used by journalists who want to publish live updates from a news event.

Let’s have another example from Norway. During the presidential inauguration the web site of VG set up a live blog using the service of Coveritlive.com In the live blog several journalists, including one on Capitol Hill in Washington DC, added small items as the event unfolded.  The Twitter feeds of the journalists were automatically integrated into the live blog, making it a dynamic and exciting journalistic experiment.

4. One more place to publish your content

Many media companies have set up Twitter accounts to push their stories as they are published. Often this is done through the service of Twitterfeed.

One example is the Twitter page of The New York Times, which is being followed by more than 51.000 people.

Some media have tried to make it more personal and conversational, like Channel4News.  I would think that is a much more effective approach.

Please give us your examples of how Twitter has been used smartly by journalists.

You can follow me on Twitter here.

Additional reading:

By the way: I just launched a new blog: Cambodia Tales

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  • http://pheaktol.com Pheak Tol

    Twitter is a great form of communication no matter the case. and during times where news reporters cant report, you got that one person with his iphone using a twitter app and broadcasting his tweet to his twitter community feeding the news.

    my example is when Chris Brogan was at CES and he was tweeting us the latest gadgets before it hit the news, even though he wasnt a journalist i think what he did (live twittering) was a great form of journalism itself. just my opinion though.

  • http://www.myeggnoodles.com Chris

    Agreed, Twitter is very powerful tool for journalists… I’ll think we’ll be seeing a lot traditional media outlets embrace Twitter towards the end of the year when Twitter becomes more mainstream.

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