Week 10 – Twitter

21 Mar

“Tweet, tweet, tweet…”

Twitter is the first social medium we’ve covered that I’m already acquainted with. As can be seen from my profile page, I follow more than 200 other accounts on the site and have acquired over 30 followers of my own since I began using the service in 2010.

Following that many people can get confusing, so it’s important to divide up your feed into lists if you want to get as much news as possible. I have a private “friends” list of people I’ve actually met (current count: 27); I’m strongly considering breaking the dozen or so news accounts I follow into their own list as well.

The lists feature ties in closely with with the curation aspect of the service. Tailoring different lists to suit your needs will let you be a much more efficient news gatherer. Applications such as Listorious also exist to facilitate the mass exporting of lists to followers.

Twitter is (or at least it began as) a glorified text-message service. The 140-character limit is just 20 below the cap on messages for most current phones. This has led to its evolution into a source for breaking news; rather than go to a bunch of websites, spend time setting up an RSS feed, or give out your phone number to a bunch of news-to-text feeds, the layman can just set up a Twitter, follow some people, and have the important tweets from them sent to his phone if he wants.

Twitter has also changed the news landscape in other ways, including breaking down the barrier between the reporter and the audience. The ability to tweet at someone, even if you don’t follow them, makes Twitter a very public service, and tweets make for a more to-the-point conversation on the topic. Journalists can use Twitter to get a concentrated reaction from the audience, or they can send tweets to sources who might otherwise not have time to respond.

Twitter can also be used to influence the news climate itself. Take, for example, Adam Penenberg, who tweeted a polemic targeting the major news organizations for their lack of coverage of a Ford rollover trial. Admittedly, as an editor I would have instinctively thought anything dealing with Ford Explorers was old news (everyone already found out they were unsafe in the ’00s, didn’t they?) but Penenberg’s tweets were able to stir up enough awareness to make the story relevant again.

Twitter can also be used to break a story, as happened with a gunman in Maryland in 2010. It’s gotten to the point that Twitter is among the first things people check after major disasters. The increasing amount of ways that ordinary people use the service (and the ways that they’re linked to each other) means that an editor looking for the next story often needs only to check the trending topics.

And now for my story…

I was really busy this week with midterms and the like, and didn’t get out of my house much. Fortunately, my Twitter account already contains a record of a story I was part of: the trip I took to the Bonnaroo music festival in Tennessee in June. I tweeted updates incessantly in the three days I was there, recording my adventures with rappers, rockers and hippies.  Unfortunately, I was a little lax with the hashtags and I’m having issues bringing the tweets up in Twitter’s advanced search. I have, however, provided some sample tweets from the weekend (June 9-12, 2011); the rest are viewable on my profile with some scrolling. I expect next week’s material on Storify will allow me to present them a lot more coherently.


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