I first signed up for my Twitter account way back in 2008, and since then I’ve researched the website, used it, and seen it explode as one of the most popular and — in my opinion — one of the most important tools the Internet has to offer. For at least a year, I didn’t take Twitter seriously, often just using it as a way to communicate with my friends and family. It wasn’t until I transferred to the University of Washington and started my communication classes that I really started seeing the true potential of Twitter. And within the blink of an eye, it seemed like the website exploded in popularity. Suddenly every celebrity, newspaper, television network and everything in between was using it. Twitter had become a regular in popular culture and a regular punchline on late-night television.
When we were assigned to use Twitter for digital journalism, I was already following several journalists and joining discussions about the news and other topics. Although already familiar with how to use Twitter, the COM466 class list actually was nice because I learned how to use the ‘list’ feature to better effect. As for the future of Twitter, I see it as a continually important aspect for journalists, bloggers, news organizations, and citizens. It’s certainly one of the most powerful tools for citizenry journalism. Suddenly, anyone on Twitter is a reporter. Moreover, anyone on Twitter is a source — I’m thinking about the recent scandal involving New York Congressman Anthony Weiner and Whatcom Community College student Gennette Cordova.
But Twitter can be both dangerous and extremely powerful. Its dangers lie in who you can trust and what you can trust. If news organizations aren’t careful, they can lose credibility through Twitter — both by the accounts they run and the accounts their employees have. All it takes is one unchecked source, and suddenly a tweet is online forever. I’m reminded of a tweet earlier this year involving a UW basketball recruit. He was upset with a story that ran in The Seattle Times about his high school academics, and blasted the reporter through his Twitter account. Within minutes, he removed the post, probably thinking it was better to let cooler heads prevail. However, the tweet was already captured forever by third-party websites, and word spread like wildfire to Husky athletic websites and message boards.
Nevertheless, the power to do good with Twitter exists as well. It’s easier to get — sometimes — reliable updates about breaking news. Not just from your community, but from around the world. The role Twitter has played in movements in Iran and other countries is extraordinary. If a website like this has helped bring social change to millions, what more could it do? Only time will tell. Furthermore, the potential for the journalism world is still growing. Bringing in clicks through Twitter for blogs and newspaper websites could be huge for potential advertisers. In comparison, Twitter could (and likely already has) help diversify the journalism market — community and subject-specific (like sports) blogs still seem to be all the rage. Will this take business away from smaller newspapers? Can those newspapers adjust?
Plus, Twitter might just be the start — what big idea is just floating around in someone’s mind, waiting for millions to join in?
1. @TheNewsChick (local) Linda Thomas – Twitter enthusiast, lots of great links and, of course, the anchor in the mornings on KIRO FM.
2. @sona23 (local) Sona Patel – Associate producer for social media at The Seattle Times.
3. @pdebarros (local) Paul de Barros – Great music writer at The Seattle Times.
4. @barlowkm (local) Katrina Barlow – News producer at The Seattle Times, enough said!
5. @jontalton (local) Jon Talton – Lots of great economic/business tweets.
1. @BillPlaschke (national) Bill Plaschke – Outstanding L.A. Times columnist. I read his insight every chance I get.
2. @woodypaige (national) Woody Paige – Hilarious Denver Post columnist. Most entertaining Around the Horn panelist.
3. @masonkelley (local) Mason Kelley – Tons of great local sports updates on Twitter account.
4. @RealMikeWilbon (national) Mike Wilbon – Co-host of Pardon the Interruption on ESPN, and also a great sports journalist.
5. @sportsguy33 (national) Bill Simmons – Author and ESPN columnist. Lots of great humor.
1. @Jerry_Brewer (local) Jerry Brewer – Terrific — even though I don’t always agree — sports columnist at The Seattle Times.
2. @WendyNordvikCar (local-ish) Wendy Nordvik-Car – Multimedia trainer at the Vancouver Sun newspaper.
3. @joshuamayers (local) Joshua Mayers – Sounders FC beat reporter/blogger at The Seattle Times. Former UW Daily reporter.
4. @mitchellreports (national) Andrea Mitchell – Chief foreign affairs correspondent at NBC News.
5. @benpolitico (national) Ben Smith – Great political reporter/blogger at Politico.
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.”
1. @drewvigal (national) Andrew DeVigal – The multimedia editor at The New York Times.
2. @emilybell (national) Emily Bell – A former news and media director of digital content and the current director of Tow Centre for Digital Journalism at Columbia University’s J School.
3. @KevGlobal (international) Kevin Anderson – Digital strategist who has worked at The Guardian and the BBC.
4. @abrahamhyatt (local) Abraham Hyatt – founder of Digital Journalism Portland and production editor at readwriteweb.com.
5. @gawlowski (local) Danny Gawlowski – Video editor at The Seattle Times with a lot of digital journalism-related experience.
6. @ckrewson (national) Chris Krewson – Editor at Vareity.com. Also has a lot of digital journalism tweets.