Monthly Archives: December 2013

Twitter in the Journalist’s Toolbox

In the quest to deliver accurate, breaking news, Twitter may be a journalist’s worst enemy – or best tool. 

The immediacy of Twitter has turned the connected populace into steep competition for traditional news brands that cannot – like the smartphone-equipped masses – be everywhere all the time and so find themselves scooped in their own markets and with increasing regularity. Indeed, the pressure to compete with and on social media channels is propagating a story-first-accuracy-later demeanor among some news organizations, as evidenced by the discouraging story last week in the New York Times.  In the December 9, 2013, piece, writers Ravi Somaiya and Leslie Kaufman reported what we know and fear:  that in the rush to be part of the digital conversation, media organizations post stories without the benefit of even basic fact checking. 

Yet the same tool that pressures journalists to jump lest they be left out of the story, may also prove to be a valuable asset in identifying, sourcing, and fact checking stories as the journalist’s role shifts from breaking news to delivering context. 

Journalists and media organizations have long used Twitter to promote stories and attract a wider following. But are they beginning to use it as a tool to identify trending topics, expert commentators, and credible eye witnesses?  If Twitter is to become a professional reporting tool, what capabilities must be layered in to the standard feed to make Twitter a most useful sourcing tool?

These are the questions, among others, that I’m considering during my fellowship at Reynolds Journalism Institute, and they are the basis of an online survey soliciting input from media professionals on the topic of Twitter as a tool for journalists.  The survey takes no more than 10 minutes to complete, and your input will influence the development of new tools for journalists and readers.  

Please take a few minutes to answer the survey and to share the link with other media professionals whose input you think would be valuable.

And, of course, I welcome comments here or to me via email.

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