Tag Archives: Twitter

To Tweet or Not to Tweet

That is the question.

It may not be as poetic or eternal as Shakespeare’s version, but it does hold quite the meaning for today’s journalists.

Is this Twitter thing here to stay? Is it an effective contributor to the media world? Will I benefit from participating in this microblogging phenomenon?

Yes, yes, and yes.  If you aren’t already on Twitter, make your account now. Even if Twitter doesn’t survive, another form of microblogging is likely to take its place, so you might as well get acquainted with it.  At least that’s what Mark Briggs, author of Journalism Next and Journalism 2.0, preaches.

Photo courtesy of journalism20.com

As a visitor to the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication, Briggs spoke to hundreds of journalism students and professors about the future of journalism.  Unlike many traditionalist journalists who think the field has taken a turn for the worst, Briggs sees a bright path ahead.  As long as we are willing to do the leg work.

Briggs emphasizes that we are the future of journalism.  You, me, and ever other aspiring journalist.  Not the current or future technology.  It is up to us to decide where journalism goes.

And if you’ve made that Twitter account, you’ve taken the first step towards influencing the future of journalism. It is a powerful media tool that, if used correctly, can influence millions of people.

As Briggs put it, Twitter is what you make of it.  While some people use it for social purposes, the major Tweet geeks have found more professional and productive uses for their 140 character entries. Whether it be a news article, video, or piece of your own work, Twitter allows its users to share information with the rest of the microblogging world.

If you don’t know what to say, then just listen and learn.  If you follow the right crowd then Tweets can actually add to your education.  The more you read, the more you learn.

If you are worried about privacy, do not fear – you can make your profile private so that only those you give approval to can read your entries.  Doing this keeps you from contributing to the whole sphere, though, so I strongly encourage you to leave it public.

Still skeptical? Start small. Just log on and search a subject that interests you. You might be surprised at what you find.  (Or if you just want an example, check out my Twitter feed on the right of this page.)

Microblogging is just a small piece of the future of journalism.  But it is a step in the right direction.  Who knows where it might lead you.

Take it and run with it.  Find your niche. “Make a dent in the universe” like Briggs hopes you will.

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Precision journalism today

How do you get your ideas for news stories? Through police reports? Twitter? Trusted sources?

Journalists come up with all different strategies to get the lead on a story, but whether it be waiting for a source to call or a tweet to spark your interest the process is passive.  Patience is a virtue, right?

But what if we didn’t have to wait for a lead? What if we could create the news? I’m not saying to go provoke an incident just for the story, but actually create a news story from what you already have at hand.

That’s exactly what Stephen K. Doig does: he creates the news.

During the half forgotten days of mainframes and tape readers, Doig and his colleagues turned coverage of a hurricane into the unearthing of major building code violations.  If he could do that in times where few newspapers could afford such technology, imagine what we could unearth with the endless technology that has fallen at our finger tips.

Satellite imagery, mapping programs, Microsoft Access and Excel, and readily available databases have made precision journalism a possibility for all reporters.

As Doig said, these are an “empowering set of tools to learn.”

Interested in following in Doig’s footsteps? Here are some tips to get you started in computer-assisted reporting:

  • First, check out Doig’s “What Went Wrong” to see how statistical analysis and hypothesis testing can work itself into a Pulitzer Prize winning piece.
  • Get acquainted with Excel.
  • Know which databases will serve you well over and over, like the property tax database and Census 2010.
  • Be relentless. You may even meet obstacles when trying to obtain a public record, but you need to show them you are not going to back down easily.
  • Always interview the people you are reporting about; confront them about the data you found.
  • When it’s time to turn it into a story, focus on one big number or pattern.  Don’t let the data clutter the story. You can show the rest of the data in a table on the side.

It takes education and dedication to become a precision journalist.  Not everyone can do it. So, use the tools that have been given to you and go create some news.

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New Media Gives Hope to Haiti

On Wednesday, January 13th I logged on to my Twitter account to find my home page cluttered with tweets about Haiti.  Friends and celebrities were telling me how I could donate – but to what? At that point I had no idea.  It wasn’t until I ran across a tweet by @TIME that said “See photos of the devastation in Haiti http://bit.ly/5Ia7gL” that I began to understand what had happened.  The news of the earthquake had spread so fast through social networking that I was already expected to know and, even more, to donate.

Pew Research Center for the People & the Press divulged that “Haiti dominates the public’s consciousness,” while at the same time revealing that:

More than one-in-ten Americans (13%) – including 24% of those younger than 30 – say they have gotten or shared information about the Haiti earthquake through Facebook, Twitter or another social networking site.

In fact, as this table from people-press.org shows, the web is slowing working its way into place as the leader in news communication, especially among young adults.

Despite this increase in use of the web for speedy news and communication, there is still a lack of quality among the reporting.   New media and social networking may have created a faster means to spread awareness, but the journalistic skills behind it still need improvement.

One aspect of journalistic writing that seems to disappear in many blogs is the use of one specific story to illustrate the whole.  Reading about the number of deaths, the action different governments are taking, the relief efforts of various countries can only capture an audience for so long.  To really make a reader feel the impact that the disaster had on this country, bloggers need to reach their audiences on a personal level.  Bring it down to earth, something that others can relate to.  Telling the detailed and emotional story of one family will express the heart-wrenching stories of many. Such detail cannot be expressed through short blog entries; it requires in-depth investigation and time.

Bloggers, especially ones that hope to provide news, truth, and real stories, should use every aspect of multimedia to their advantage.  Show high-quality photographs that stop the viewer’s heart.  Include videos that bring tears to the viewer’s eyes.  Write articles to add depth, detail, and information to the visual stimuli that will capture the audience.  CNN’s Reporter’s Notebook does this best, as its entries specifically cover “what images can’t convey.”  However, the web page would have been much more captive had the writer(s) included stunning images to supplement its writing.

There is so much opportunity among new media to really capture an audience and show them what is happening in Haiti, or any other news event for that matter, but I have yet to see someone challenge its potential.

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