Journalists start to get Twitter…about time!February 23, 2009
Last week, it seems like Twitter finally hit the Washington press on the head with an anvil and they all finally got with it. Why most journalists are so far behind the curve is kind of mystifying to me. Millions of normal people use Twitter everyday, but when you look up major journalists on Twitter the vast majority of them don’t *get* it.
Just look at Anderson Cooper or Gawker or CNN. This is not how you use Twitter. These guys follow no one, and only post a stream of posts from Twitterfeed trying to get you to their blogs or websites. That’s not the point of Twitter. If you’re going to do that, why bother?
Recently, this is a topic I’ve seen discussed in other places. Luke Russert didn’t have a Twitter account even though he is supposed to be covering youth issues. And then last week I noticed an interesting trend…journalists started to get it. Russert started his own account. George Stephanopoulos, whose Twitter account previously until February 18th was just a stream of ads for his blog, suddenly started posting updates like a real person. David Gregory and Mike Allen both joined Twitter and started posting real updates, and both garnered a huge following within days. Gregory even went so far as to start his own TypePad blog.
There are some journalists who have been getting it for a long time: Ana Marie Cox, or John Byrne, CEO of Business Week, John Dickerson of Slate, and of course, Rick Sanchez and Don Lemon of CNN. All of these journalists use Twitter to post real updates, information, and insight, and they genuinely interact with people and gather information, rather than simply using Twitter as a self-promotion tool. They connect — which is the point.
There are some great ways Twitter can be used to improve and complement serious journalism — it’s not just a frivolous tool for posting where you’re going every second of the day or what you had for lunch (NOONECARESABOUTYOURLUNCH.Why do I get so many tweets like that?) It’s a great way to discover breaking stories or find interview sources or simply step out from behind your byline, go where the readers are, and talk to them.
Social media is useless if you just use it as a one-way megaphone; it has to be a two-way conversation. I hope more journalists follow suit, because I have to wonder how accurately they can report on issues on behalf of the public if they’re missing a crucial opportunity to see what the public is talking about.
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