This lengthy article from the American Journalism Review by Bret Schulte – a freelance writer and assistant professor of journalism at the University of Arkansas – is well worth a read through. Though it’s from January 2010, Schulte provides a relevant discussion of how newsroom have embraced social media, and specifically Twitter.
Here are some of the best takeaways:
- Schulte opens the piece with an anecdote involving a new editor at Wilmington’s Star-News, a newspaper with a circulation of about 48,000. When a major storm hit, the newspaper – which previously had just one Twitter account – had its journalists tweeting first-hand accounts. A year later, Star-News had 15 Twitter accounts and 30 staffers with their own accounts.
- “That the social networking scene has pushed into the news business is no surprise, but what is raising eyebrows is how quickly the famously slow-footed industry has embraced it.“
- It’s not just a journalist’s job to write a story now. It’s their job to write the story, help distribute the story, help market the story, and help find an audience for the story.
- The amount of people using Twitter to get their news is rising.
- Slate magazine was ahead of the curve in creating multiple Facebook pages for to promote “individual projects.”
- “With any luck, all this experimentation on social networking–finding out the hard way what works and what doesn’t–will provide some answers to the business side of online journalism, which is in dire need. Hey, that’s worth tweeting.”
The article starts out with the inverted pyramid approach, meaning you need to get all the important stuff out of the way first. Next up are the 5 W’s (and the H). Journalists need to cover as many of these as possible, and it’s preferable to fit as many as you can into your nut graph. What’s a nut graph? Check out Poynter.
In terms of personal experience, I remember writing my first news story for The Daily (our student newspaper here at the UW) about a year and a half ago. The story was looking into what might happen if the “big one” struck Seattle (this was just after the major earthquake that hit in Haiti). My primary source was Paul Bodin (pictured above), a professor in the Department of Earth and Space Sciences and the network manager of the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network.
Once I had conducted that interview and several others, I laid out what the most important points of my news story would be before writing the actual article (see: inverted pyramid). Looking back, my first article could use plenty of improving, but it’s also interesting to think about that first time I wrote an article for a publication. Something that felt so foreign the first time I did it feels so much more ingrained in me now.