Social media users shared videos and images of the Cape Town fire as the flames reached the University of Cape Town (UCT) campus on…
Many journalists still balk at the idea of Twitter. They’re put off by the noise, the loud celebrities and the gushing streams of irrelevance. Of course there are pros and cons to the micro-blogging platform, but whatever way you want to look at it, it’s undeniable that Twitter is a valuable resource for both print and online journalists.
These are five reasons why.
1. The ultimate networking platform
If you’re starting out in journalism or are a freelancer, Twitter allows you to get your name out there and make connections. As a journalist, one of your most valuable resources is your network of contacts, and Twitter is an easy way of finding people who can help you get your stories.
2. Twitter is an ever-expanding source of inspiration and ideas for stories
It’s also a litmus test for popular current trends. You can see what people are talking about on a daily basis, and assess the zeitgeist. For example, if everyone’s talking about Prince William’s proposal to Kate Middleton while in Kenya, then maybe it’s a good time to write an article about romantic Kenyan lodges, or on the most romantic proposals of all time? Not only has Twitter provided you with a story idea, but you can use the network to source content for your article as well. The key is to follow the right people. If you follow the Kim Kardashians of the world, then you’re not really going to get much journalistic inspiration.
3. Strong, timely feedback
As a print journalist, you feed your content out into the wide world and you only ever receive very little feedback. The beauty of online journalism lies in immediate responses to your articles. Post a link on Twitter and wait to see how many retweets it garners, how many click-throughs and comments. Even a lack of response to something you tweet is helpful, and gives you an indication that it wasn’t catchy enough.
4. Breaking news
Newsroom journalists, and for that matter, any journalists, are missing out if they’re not on Twitter as much as possible to discover breaking news stories. The January 2009 Hudson plane crash is a good example of how news is often first reported on Twitter. Twitter users broke news of the crash 15 minutes before it was reported on mainstream media. The first tweet from the crash, four minutes after the plane went down was from @Manolantern: “I just watched a plane crash into the hudson rive in manhattan.” Three minutes after that tweet, @jkrums posted this photo from the first ferry going to pick up plane passengers.
5. Become a better writer
The nature of Twitter means that you have to exercise copywriting skills in order to tweet effectively. It’s a real writing challenge to stay under 140 characters and write something that’s both informative and intriguing enough to make people want to click on the link or retweet. Twitter allows you to hone your skills and provides metrics for how good they are (how many people retweet or click on your link).