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Tweeting Class

by Kim on January 30, 2009 · 11 comments

Welcome to my second edition of J-School Journal.  I hate that name, so instead of formalizing my feature with a name I’m just going to commit to writing a post about journalism and journalism school on Friday, without worrying that it has a snazzy button or name (unless I come up with something cool later :) ).

twitter logo

Last week during my first multimedia storytelling class, our professor asked us to use Twitter during her lecture on the history of multimedia and online journalism.  We did this as an exercise in becoming multitasking reporters than can micro-blog during conferences and meetings (something that is becoming pretty popular).

Using #J880 and TweetChat, our class started sending tweets during the lecture. But instead of being commentary or discussion on what was happening, the conversation turned almost immediately into a private chat of sorts, making jokes with each other rather than commenting about the lecture. Because we were tweeting so quickly, #J880 showed up on Twitter’s “Trending Topics” list — right next to #inaug09 (inauguration tweets) and topics like Apple and President Obama. The conversation then got interrupted by someone wanting to know what #J880 meant; our “private conversation” then became immediately public, even though it was never really private at all.

This exercise reinforced one of the things I’ve always thought about Twitter — learning to use it well isn’t intuitive, even though the concept seems simple.  I can see why Twitter would be useful, and probably has staying power for crowd journalism and other ways to get readers involved with the news gathering process.  I just don’t quite get how yet, and am looking for more examples.  Luckily, Online Journalism Blog also just posted a list of 10 Twitter users that every journalism student should follow, so maybe watching some of them will help.

There are lots of useful ways to use Twitter (monicaguzman is an interesting journalist on Twitter, too) and lots of silly ways to waste time. If journalists want to make Twitter an important part of their newsroom and newsgathering process, we need to learn to use it in a way that makes sense, but I’m just not sure how to do that.

How you can even begin to learn or teach how to use Twitter? Is it just practice makes perfect? And does Twitter have staying power as a tool for journalists?

P.S. You can follow me on Twitter (I don’t tweet much, yet!)

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

benjaminwheeler January 30, 2009 at 7:48 pm

I think your weekly post should be called “Raking Muck to Make a Buck”.

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Anastasia January 30, 2009 at 9:30 pm

I think using to use Twitter well is partly intuitive, partly practice. Everyone can get into the habit of typing out what they’re doing, but it takes a bit of practice to make it go beyond the standard “I’m eating a banana” kind of thing. I think it’s also more fun and fulfilling if you try to engage people in conversations; replying to interesting tweets, asking questions, etc.

I’m not entirely sure how you journalist people should be using it, but I definitely can see using Twitter as a way to let people know when new articles are available on websites, or when something breaking-news is happening. I remember reading a few articles about how indie journalists were using Twitter to update people on current local events (could probably find them on Google).

Then there’s the whole Twitter-business integration going on. I know a lot of book bloggers (myself included) use Twitter to notify people when new posts are up (as well as talk about books and whatever else we want to talk about), but there’s also lots of book publishers, editors, and authors that are using Twitter to talk to their customers and readers. Using Twitter makes them seem both more personable and accessible, plus it helps all us fans keep up with what they’re doing. For instance, Neil Gaiman has a Twitter (@neilhimself) and he’s been using it to update about all the promotions and things he’s doing for the new Coraline movie. Stephen Fry has one as well (@stephenfry) and he updates about, well, everything really.

This comment is massive, so I’ll end it here, but I just wanted to say great post! And I hope that you stick around on Twitter; it can be addicting, but in a good way. :D (I’m @anniebody, btw.)

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maureensk January 31, 2009 at 2:19 am

Well, I am new to Twitter also. I still don’t get the whole thing, but I spent about two hours today trying to set it up more and find apps and figure out what to do with it. I really like Facebook and am not convinced I need Twitter also… I guess it depends on what your goals are.

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mediamum January 31, 2009 at 10:02 am

I liked reading your post. I’m also a graduate student in Mass Comm, and my thesis is on Twitter and how it changes traditional journalism. Here’s a link to a post about a preliminary paper on it that I wrote. If you’d like to have the whole thing, just email me! Cheers! Jo White, University of Colorado at Boulder http://mediamum.wordpress.com/2008/12/22/a-visit-to-the-a-pool/

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Suzanne January 31, 2009 at 11:23 am

Enjoyed your post. I also have a list of journos I think people should follow (scroll down to items 6 and 7):
http://www.suzanneyada.com/2009/01/03/resolutions-for-journalism-students-part-ii-network-like-mad/

Twitter is indeed a strange beast, but it’s ALLLLLL about who you follow and who follows you. Right now I’m basically posting links on the future of journalism on it, and I follow a ton of other journalists who do the same. To me it’s very useful AND is essentially the meat and potatoes of my journalism education.

If you and your classmates had some spare time Sunday night from 8-11 p.m. EST, you should stop by collegejourn.com for a chat. Would love to have you!

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Jewelgirl February 1, 2009 at 12:59 am

Madtown rocks!
Anyway I am a blogger from the
Midwest who thinks that we should
have a “Midwest” Bloggers group.
I would display the badge proudly
on my blogs!

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Kim February 1, 2009 at 4:41 pm

benjaminwheeler: I like that, if only I were making money :)

Anastasia: Yeah, it is sort of addicting. It reminds me of when Facebook added status updates — I didn’t get it at first and found it annoying, but after while I got into it. Twitter might just take a little longer.

maureensk: Yeah, I think so. I haven’t spent much time with Twitter yet, I’m mostly just stalking people to see how they use it.

mediamum: Thanks, I read the post and it sounds very interesting, expect an e-mail soon!

Suzanne: I think that’s a great point — you have to follow people you find interesting and useful to find a way to be a little like them.

Jewelgirl: A midwest blog group would be excellent :)

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Louise February 1, 2009 at 5:55 pm

I am trying to learn how to twitter but am not very good at it, since I log in there about once every week. LOL. I can’t twitter from my cell.
Interesting post and interesting comments. Will try and use Twitter more!

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Rebecca Reid February 1, 2009 at 8:49 pm

I used twitter for about a month. What I don’t like is that it is public. Why share my life status with the world? If someone I know wants to know me, they should call or email.

That’s also my “beef” with Facebook. Too public. Too impersonal.

I don’t have any understanding how Twitter could help Journalism. Seems like a waste of time to me…

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Elizabeth February 2, 2009 at 5:45 am

I don’t know anything about Twitter, your post taught me something.

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Kim February 2, 2009 at 1:23 pm

Louise: I usually remember to check Twitter everyday, but whenever I go I don’t feel like I have anything useful to say. So I mostly just follow people and read what they are doing.

Rebecca: Yes, that is one of the things about Twitter. It’s sort of annoying to just read constant life posts from people, but I like reading posts with links to articles or posts that are relevant.

Elizabeth: Awesome, I’m glad it was useful for you :)

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