How journalists use Twitter

Twitter allows reporters to monitor their beats around the clock, says Alecia Swasy in a new post at Poynter. A final look at Twitter before bedtime has become a must for many journalists.

Rather than the old-fashioned fear of “don’t scoop yourself on Twitter,” she found a new attitude: “If you don’t have it on Twitter first, it’s not a scoop.”

Swasy “spent about two years researching and interviewing 50 journalists at four metropolitan papers”: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Dallas Morning News, The Denver Post, and the Tampa Bay Times. 

“One of the most interesting things I found was Twitter’s emergence as the new phone directory. Consider the decline of landline telephones, and the subsequent death of the community white pages. A school reporter in Dallas used Twitter to find students and parents by searching key words on the latest buzz in the schoolyard. … [S]he used Twitter to track down the news about a Dallas teacher being fired because she once posed for Playboy. The reporter also used Twitter to confirm the teacher’s identity — and to find her.”

Breaking local news on Twitter means more social capital for reporters, Swasy found. It can also expand their readership outside the local area, as it did for the Tampa Bay Times’s Craig Pittman, whose Twitter presence led to a Slate blog and a book deal, she says.

It’s not that Twitter alone can make your career — each journalist Swasy interviewed “emphasized that the main thing that will attract readers is producing credible content,” she wrote.

For more about Swasy’s findings, be sure to read her post at Poynter.

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An example of live blogging

Yesterday, a small plane bound for Naples, Fla., went off course and headed toward Cuba. U.S. military jets followed. The situation was uncertain for about four hours.

Millionaire property developer and wife killed when light aircraft crashes off Jamaican coast

The Daily Mirror (a British tabloid) started a live-blog for the incident. It’s a little odd in that the oldest (earliest) event is at the top. In live blogging, usually we put the latest, newest event at the top. But otherwise this example serves as a good example of journalists following a breaking news situation and posting updates — all at a single URL — until the incident came to a conclusion.