I wanted to offer an argument for Twitter as a valuable tool for journalists, as many today seemed unconvinced of its worth. As the Twouble with Twitter video said, there are clearly a lot of people tweeting about mundane details of their day: what they ate, how hot it is, blah blah blah. I was definitely unconvinced by Twitter at first as well. But as a tool to show students how many are paying attention to important events, I've been very surprised and have found ways for my journalists to use Twitter.
How this came about: I was multitasking while watching the most recent State of the Union, and with Twitter open, I noticed that the number of comments on the speech was out of control: over 300 comments were being posted (I suppose I should say “tweeted”) a minute. Three hundred comments a minute! By the end of the speech, there were hundreds of thousands of comments. Many were funny, some were unnecessary, but several were very insightful. A lot linked to reports or articles about events or data mentioned – stuff I would want to look up on my own – much like Jason Manning’s demonstration of the "one screen" News 21 Initiative news packages. Even some congressmen in attendance were tweeting (which raised controversy), and it was interesting to read their real-time reactions.
The next day at school, I asked my students if they had watched. At least ten of them said they did only because they started seeing everyone on Facebook and Twitter posting about it. A few didn’t even know it was on until checking Facebook; the others said they felt like they should turn on the tv since so many people were talking about it.
In short, checking Facebook led my students to watching the State of the Union. Not bad, I thought. This could be useful after all.
Now my students spend the first day of our production cycle coming up with story ideas. One resource they check is Twitter. Which hashtags are popular, and then local and interesting to us? What major events are people talking about?
Len Downie Jr. told us to “not condemn the silly things on Facebook. Use it for the important things.” The same goes for Twitter.
Right now I follow my favorite writers, professors, and political figures. I delete people who don't give me anything useful. You don’t need to post anything yourself if you don’t want—I definitely don’t try to add to the nonsense. But I check it frequently and encourage my students to as well.
Just don’t call me a tweep.
Some more links: