Monthly Archives: May 2011

Academic Blog – My experiences in the Twittersphere

I started tweeting around a year ago with the handle @linn_87. When I started out, I had no idea how I should use Twitter. So my first tweets didn’t contain any links what so ever.

In recent months I have learnt how important it is to link to you sources in your tweets. Links make your tweets more credible because you’re telling your followers were you found the information. You’re not just putting information out there without any attribution.

As a journalism student I know how important it is to attribute information to a source. But when I first started using Twitter a year ago I didn’t know how to shorten links. This meant that a lot of the links I wanted to use where too long to fit into 140 characters, which is the character limit on Twitter.

When you know where to find and how to use a URL shortener it becomes a lot easier to use links in your tweets. My favourite URL shortener is bit.ly. Manly because you can see how many of your followers have clicked on your links. But you need to sign up to be able to see these statistics.

It can be an advantage to have access to these statistics because it tells you what your followers are interested in. Your followers will most likely only click on links that interest them. So these statistics can help you cater for your followers/audience.

You can cater for your audience by linking to information you know they will find useful or you can engage them in conversation. It’s up to you how you want to attract followers and keep them interested. But one thing you should keep in mind is that “conversational messages have more potential to engage audiences” (2011).

I think I still have a way to go when it comes to engaging my audience. In my eyes Annabel Crabb and Mark Colvin are very good at engaging their audience and they are an inspiration for me. I want to become just as good as they are at engaging my audience.

It is important for a aspiring journalist to follow well-established journalists on Twitter and see how they use the medium. Julie Posetti found in her research that “professional journalists are using Twitter to enhance and augment traditional reporting practices. Many journalists…are now logged onto Twitter throughout their working day” (2009).

ABC radio producer Andrew Davies told Julie Posettie that he tries to start his day by looking at what people are saying and talking about on Twitter. He said, “I love to read all the fantastic links to interesting websites, ideas (and) news that people have sent out” (2009). This stresses the importance of linking.

As ABC’s Managing Director Mark Scott wrote, “one of the things Twitter is most useful for is linking. In fact, 25 per cent of all Tweets contain links” (2010).

Reporters Julie Posetti interviewed are using Twitter “to ‘broadcast’ links to content they or their news outlet have produced in an effort to build a new audience” (2009). I have also published links to my own work on Twitter to try and build my readership. But with only 90 followers this is not easy.

By building up followers on Twitter you are building your readership. You can get people to follow you by commenting on their tweets, message them directly or live report events that other people find interesting.

On the 23th of April I went to an ice hockey game between Canberra Knights and Newcastle North Stars. I decided to live tweet the game and after the game I had three more followers. This was an eye opening experience for me and showed me how easy it can be to build your audience.

Twitter has given us the opportunity to report on an event as it unfolds. Good examples of real time reporting are the Christchurch earthquake, the disaster in Japan and the death of Osama bin Laden. I read about all of these events on Twitter before I heard about them in the mainstream media.

So Twitter allows the public to break news, but how do you know that what you read on Twitter is true? Rory O’Conner has written about the dangers of social media and unfiltered information.

“This unparalleled information access, although empowering, is also disruptive and presents its own unique set of issues and challenges, both to journalists and to society as a whole.”

He says that the audience can’t know for sure what is true and what is false when they are dealing with “unfiltered” information. And in an environment as Twitter faulty information can spread very quickly (2009, p.4).

Journalist Harley Dennett told Julie Posetti that the public is less likely to trust news broken on Twitter than news delivered by traditional media outlets.

“Sometimes people don’t believe me when I reveal something on Twitter before the full story, with supporting quotes and documentation, comes out in print or online. It’s hard to prove something in 140 characters when there’s nothing to link.”

As Julie Posetti says journalists should “exercise caution” and do proper research before publishing something they have seen on Twitter. It is very easy to set up a fake Twitter account and start publishing tweets (2009).

Journalists are constantly under pressure to produce stories and publish information. Sometimes it can be hard to verify tweets. Here is a link to a guide with 6 easy ways to verify tweets.

As a journalist you have to find a balance between accuracy, speed and depth. In the Twittersphere speed seems to be the most important, which concerns me. I don’t want social media to lower the quality of journalism.

But in some instances speed is the most important criteria. If an event is unfolding speed is essential and Twitter is a great tool to get information out to the public. As Roy Peter Clark writes, tweets can give the public snapshots from an “unravelling narrative”.

He says that while newspapers have moved away from mini-narratives, Tweeters can be very creative with the way they deliver news.

“A live blog is a kind of serial narrative constructed in real time, and Facebook and Twitter often resemble the grammar and style of direct, observed reporting (2011).”

Although, Twitter is a great tool for real time reporting there are obvious pitfalls. One of which are addiction. Watch this  YouTube video as an example.

Another pitfall is the amount of information you get on Twitter. Although it’s a lot of good information out there, how can you find THE GOOD information among all the other useless information? My answer to this question is, start using lists. By dividing the accounts you follow into lists, you organize the information, and it’s much easier to navigate your Twitter account.

Although, Twitter has some downsides it’s a revolutionary journalism tool. It is an important tool in broadcast journalism. If you watch Q and A on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) on Mondays you know that they are broadcasting tweets from the public. This is one of the ways you can use Twitter as a broadcaster, to get instant viewer feedback.

In most cases instant viewer feedback is a good thing. But when a staff member at the TV channel who is airing the tweets has to make them up because of too few responses, it is not a good thing. Priscilla Jebaraj reported that this happened at the Indian channel IBN in December 2010.

So as a broadcaster it’s important to be honest with your audience and only use tweets generated by the viewers. If not, I don’t see the point in using instant viewer feedback. It’s supposed to be a way for the viewers to interact in real-time and get their say.

Nevertheless, I think for the most part broadcasters are honest and are using Twitter in a legitimate way. When used in the right way Twitter is a great journalism tool. It has already changed and are changing journalism practises. So get on board and try it out because Twitter is here to stay.

References:

Clark, RP 2011, How journalists are using Facebook, Twitter to write mini serial narratives, Poynter, viewed 13 May 2011.

Jebaraj, P 2010, Fake tweets aired on TV news show, The Hindu, viewed 14 May 2011.

O’Conner, R 2009, Word of Mouse: Credibility, Journalism and Emerging Social Media, Joan Shorenstein Centre on the Press, Politics and Public Policy, viewed 13 May 2011.

Posetti, J 2009, How Journalists Are Using Twitter in Australia, PBS Mediashift, viewed 12 May 2011.

Scott, M 2010, The Golden Age for Australian journalism, ABC The Drum, viewed 12 May 2011.

Studies find journalists use Twitter for broadcast 2011, Reportr, viewed 12 May 2011.


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