Why Twitter is essential for Journalists

An attempt (once again) to rally our top journalists to start using Twitter, the definitive newsgathering tool, before its too late.

investigativetweeting

2012 was the year a handful of name-brand Jamaican journalists decided it was time to start using Twitter. That was pretty late in the day already. The majority however are still holding back, perhaps signalling their impending mortality or the end of their shelf lives as journalists to take seriously? We still have no @ianboyne, @markwignall, @cliffhughes, @MartinHenry (perhaps the only local science writer!) and many others who straddle traditional media like local giants.

This post is dedicated to all the non-tweeting local giants of Jamaican journalism: The following quote from How to break into science writing using your blog and social media (#sci4hels), a Scientific American article should clue you in on why you’re shortchanging your audiences by continuing to spurn the latest newsgathering technologies such as Twitter. In addition this useful but long article provides a lot of great information for journalists in general on how to use social media to find new audiences and outlets.

“Let’s focus on Twitter now. It is essential for a journalist. Not having – and using – a Twitter account today is like not having an email address ten years ago (and yes, some cutting-edge people are completely abandoning email and doing all of their communications over social media).

Big companies have suffered losses because their old-timey PR teams were unaware of the backlash on social media, and then incapable of responding correctly on social media. Businesses can lose money if they are missing key information that appears only on social media. Academia is especially horribly insulated and way behind the times. But nowhere is use of social media as important as in journalism. Don’t be this guy who was completely oblivious that his newspaper was in the center of national maelstrom of harsh criticism, because “I only deal with what’s on paper”.

When an airplane skidded off the runway in Denver, I knew it, along with 100,000s of other people, 12 minutes before everyone else. A passenger tweeted about it, and it spread like wildfire, including his updates, blurry photos, etc. CNN had a brief piece 12 minutes later. The accidental “citizen journalist” scooped them. Sometimes, for some news, these 12 minutes may be crucial for you.

Twitter and Facebook were key methods of communication not just between participants, but also to the outside world, during the Mumbai attacks and the Arab Spring.

People got jobs and gigs on Twitter that started their careers.

Journalists on deadline quickly find expert sources for their stories.

Journalists who observed the massive, instant, intense and scathing reactions of experts to #arseniclife or #Encode did not make the mistake of filing their positive stories and then having to backpedal later.

If all you see on Twitter is garbage, you are following the wrong people. You have to carefully choose who to follow, and then learn how to filter. Unfollowing is easy, and polite. You are not dissing your Mom, as if you would if you unfriended her on Facebook.”

And guess what the best thing about this most cutting-edge tool for journalists is? It’s free!