I was an early adopter of Twitter, signing up for it in the wake of the buzz it created at South by Southwest 2007, but I didn’t write anything for a couple weeks, unsure of what I could use it for or even who would care what I had to say.
At the time I was working at the Santa Cruz Sentinel
as a shooter and Ryan
was over in the web department making waves, so being old friends we naturally seek each other out to shoot the breeze for a moment or two each day.
One day the topic of Twitter came up and while we were both trying to figure out what was the best use for it, it was decided that I should at least post something instead of leaving it blank. So for about the next 11 months my status remained “I’m part of the Ryan Sholin generation” (an inside joke).
That was until a few weeks ago when I finally added it to my phone and started updating via text. All of a sudden Twitter made sense.
See the part that bugged me was having to sit at a computer to update, it didn’t make any sense when I already had a Facebook status bar for that. But now I was updating 2,4, 10 times a day from my phone and interacting with people all day via my phone.
I’m finally seeing the amazing power Twitter can wield and how it is/can be the tool we’ve been seeking at newspapers to help us reach out to people and have that dialogue that will make the newsroom interactive.
I’ve often said the future of news is a back and forth between the public and the professional staff, and if used correctly Twitter can take us one step closer toward that goal. (And why is this a goal? Because it’s human nature, we don’t want to just be talked at, we want to talk back. That’s why Web 2.0, maybe just Web at this point, has taken off. And it‘s always been that way from the get go, i.e. Geocities and Anglefire, vBulletin.)
With this tool and the publics love of cell phones, we've suddenly opened up a new means of direct communication with the public. It makes sense, everyone text messages right? I could go and point tothe stats
, but anyone that has visited a movie theater know it's true.
Much like RSS feeds, Newsrooms can set up Twitter feeds to alert readers to new content. The President just declared war in Iran, ding! readers know of it right away and rush to read about it on your site thanks to the attached hyperlink. It can even go deeper with specific feeds for specific topics, such as sports (Sharks just got knocked out of the playoff 30 secs ago), weather (dust storms from China sweeping in, it's a Clean Air Day) or traffic (wreck on 101, take 280 instead). And all along, you're building brand recognition and loyalty. Not to mention fulfilling the newspapers role as a community commodity.
Reporters could look to it for story ideas in their beats-- lots of rumors about a new iPhone, maybe the tech writer should look into it. It's almost like watching the ticker in the old days for surges in "key words" like "flash flood" or "New Orleans is under water."
And that reporter, once they land the interview with Apple CEO Steve Jobs to talk about the iPhone rumors, can allow the public to submit ideas for questions they want answered. That's what ReadWriteWeb
, a popular tech blog, did to learn that data portability was the topic of interest for readers looking forward to their interview with Mark Zuckerberg at SXSW. Readers got to have a say in content while still letting the person of authority hold on to the reins. This allows readers to participate in newsroom 2.0, become invested in the result of the story (readership baby!) and still keeps the professionals in a position to accurately and responsibly report.
We can debate weather the questions were good or not in the YouTube debates, but I think we all agree it was a good idea to get the public involved, and besides the journalist is still the watchdog. Joe Schmo can never replace the ethically trained professional.
Then it's also help just to talk to your network for ideas on things to do when your in a new city (like I did in DC).
Even use it instead of text messaging in case you lose your phone to let people know you lost your phone (you won't exactly have all those numbers off the top of your head).
Twitter can also be set up as a plug in tool for other sites and used to update them. Such as the GoogleMaps mashup
that allowed Twitter users on Super Tuesday to "tweet" in where they voted, who they voted for and any other comments they wished to share.
And if none of that sounds interesting, you can always just use it to get out of jail
Twitter allows everyone to submit one stitch to the quilt, one verse to the rhyme, one dime to the march. It’s the delivery mechanism that will finally take us one step closer toward the promise of Newsroom 2.0.
I’m finally seeing Twitter for the tool it can be.
Labels: community journalism, google maps, multimedia, online, personal, pop culture, tech, Twitter