Twitter for journalists: What you need to know

Twitter is changing the way news is delivered and read. For the uninitiated, Twitter is an online application that lets users send short messages of 140 characters or less called “tweets” through instant message, cell phone or its website. Many journalists are already using it as a microblogging platform or, alternatively, as a way to keep friends and colleagues updated on their daily lives.

ReadWriteWeb has encapsulated the reasons why Twitter and journalism go hand in hand:

Unlike TV or newspaper, Twitter allows for a conversation. Like its new media brethren, blogs, Twitter encourages discourse and feedback. For reporters that aren’t afraid to get down and dirty, Twitter is a golden opportunity to build a rapport with readers and gauge public opinion. It also makes readers feel more connected to the news when they can participate in a discussion about it as it happens, often times with the people reporting it first hand.

Twitter is built for the new news cycle. “Traditional news operated on a 24-hour cycle. Blogs shortened this to minutes and hours. Twitter shortens it further to seconds,” [Patrick Ruffini of TechPresident] writes. “It’s not right for every piece of information. It’s certainly not well suited for longer analysis. But when it comes to instantly assembling raw data from several sources that then go into fully baked news stories, nothing beats it.”

CNN’s Rick Sanchez (@ricksanchezcnn) is a great example of how a mainstream news organization is using Twitter to deliver news. In addition to providing links to CNN’s news content, Rick also engages in conversation with many of his thousands of online followers.

Other traditional news media making use of Twitter are BBC News, CBC News (Canada), Le Monde – World, the New York Times, CNN Breaking News, The Oregonian, Orlando Sentinel, ESPN, and a host of others indexed here. It’s about time your news organization was added to the list, right?

Creating links to news stories on Twitter and redirecting them to your site is a great way to generate additional traffic or to notify Twitter users of breaking news. The site is also useful for liveblogging or tracking reaction to local stories.

Twitter is used more often for personal discourse, but journalists should approach twittering of their personal lives with caution. Tech blogger extraordinaire Tiffany B. Brown explains why she tweets and why having the public following your public life may not be such a good idea. Nevertheless, Twitter has quickly become the essential tool in every newsroom’s and journalist’s arsenal.

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