Twitter 101 for Journalism Students

Twitter launched in 2006. Today, it has become an increasingly important part of how people get news. One-third of adults under 30 get news on social networks, and about a third of Twitter users follow a news organization or individual journalists.

Twitter Lingo
username – Twitter alias
tweet – a message on Twitter, maximum of 140 characters
follow – selecting users to follow
reply or respond using @username
retweet – repost a message sent by another user, often marked with RT
hashtag – identify a subject trending on Twitter using #. Hashtags make it easier to group or search for tweets on that topic.

Twitter’s “Journalism Debut
The 2008 Mumbai attacks were more than ten coordinated shooting and bombing attacks across Mumbai, India’s largest city, by Muslim terrorists from Pakistan. It lasted nearly three days, killing at least 173 people and wounding at least 308. People used Twitter to report news from the scene. Reporters used Twitter to track developments, find sources, and report the story. See Hash Mumbai YouTube Video

Example: Brian Stelter, New York Times reporter
Clip from Page One: Inside the New York Times
Read What I Learned in Joplin  by Brian Stelter. What practical advice does he offer to young journalists?
Look at Brian Stelter’s Twitter account. What do you notice about his use of Twitter?

Resources for How to Use Twitter As A Reporting Tool
Read Twitter offers advice to journalists (Mashable)
Read 10 ways journalists can use Twitter before, during, and after a story (Poynter)
Read What every young journalist should know about using Twitter (Poynter)
Read Considering the ethics of using Twitter for journalism (Poynter)
100 Twitter accounts every journalism student should follow
Twitter has created a guide for newsrooms

Get Started:

  1. Watch Mark Luckie’s Twitter Tips for Journalism Students
  2. Set up a Twitter account. You might create a separate account for your beat/blog that is distinct from your personal account.
  3. Add it to your blog widgets.
  4. Track your news niche – Follow 20 to 50 people/organizations related to your topic.
  5. Retweet others who are writing about your beat.
  6. Develop sources. Look for people you might interview for a story or Q and A.
  7. Look for story ideas.
  8. Go to an event related to your beat. Live tweet it.
  9. Share your work. Include links to your posts.
  10. Send links to posts to anyone you quote or use as a source. Ask for feedback.
  11. Follow your “media idols” – the people who have the kind of job you think you’d like to have one day – and observe how they use Twitter.
  12. Develop your own style/tone/strategy.
  13. Give it time.

Oh yeah…you may eventually get paid to do this, like a recent Rowan grad. So learn and practice now.

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