Introducing journalists to Twitter – what I’d do differently

On Friday I wrote about my frustrations with teaching student journalists to Twitter – which generated some very helpful debate. Having dwelt on my experiences I’ve come up with the following idea for integrating Twitter into newsrooms:

Make it an internal tool first.

What I mean is: employ Twitter as a way of keeping journalists in touch with other members of their team, and their editors, via their mobile phones.

Here’s how it would work:

All the journalists in your team create a Twitter account, and make sure that they set it up so that they can post from their mobile phone, and receive mobile alerts.

Then ensure that everyone in the team, including editors, are following each other and receiving updates to their mobiles too.

Team members then send updates from their mobiles or PC on:

  • what they’re up to
  • any useful leads
  • and ‘shout out’ question/requests for help from their colleagues

Here’s the benefits:

  • It enables not only editors but journalists to keep in touch with what the rest of the team is up to – spotting connections that might otherwise pass by
  • It builds team spirit
  • It builds skills in web literacy and the ability to summarise in 140 characters
  • And of course, a side product of this, should you wish to make it public, is a stream of content you can publish on the website or make available as email and/or mobile updates

If the last step is too far for in-house communication, Twitter allows you to set up your account to only be visible to followers you have vetted (although watch you don’t install the Facebook app).

But the experience of using the technology means that:

  • you can confidently set up a separate, specific Twitter account for covering an event
  • you can set up a further account for social networking with potential contributors and leads
  • should a major event break while you’re on the move you will know how to use Twitter to provide updates, and your news team will be able to make your updates visible for the duration.

This blog post is part of the February Carnival of Journalism, hosted at Innovation in College Media.

19 thoughts on “Introducing journalists to Twitter – what I’d do differently

  1. JohnofScribbleSheet

    Sounds like a brilliant way to run a newsroom. But some people will be worried about being tracked. It could be used to keep tabs on people and limit their freedom. It could loose all value if people just update to “look busy” rather than add value.

  2. Craig McGill

    Paul, the problem with this is that the tech already exists: SMS. Also editors like to be told first what’s happening and then decide what help (and from whom) the reporter needs.

  3. paulbradshaw Post author

    Also: the advantage that Twitter has over plain vanilla SMS is that it’s easier to send to a group of people, cheaper, and you have a web-based record with working links.
    and Editors will still know what’s happening first. It’s just so will the rest of the team… cultural change time!

  4. knackeredhack

    I’m still experimenting with Twitter, but the way I see it being used by others shows me clearly that it is the quintessential tool for editorial management and coordination. I’ve long believed that until newrooms are active, rather than latent networks, they won’t have so much to contribute to a world where collaboration is increasing the rule and not the exception.

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