Who Should Journalists Follow On Twitter?

When I was in college, we didn’t have Twitter*. But if I had, there are plenty of accounts I would have followed closely — and they would have extended far beyond my own social circle. I’d have included all of the accounts USA Today picked for its round-up of Nine Twitter accounts every journalism student should follow and hundreds more.

Their list is a round-up of journo-talking heads, news organizations and organizations devoted to journalism. The paper’s quick-hit list notes, “The folks below… may not be ‘masters’ of the craft, but they do have their fingers on the pulse of modern journalism. Following them should help you raise your Twitter game significantly.” Among those who made their cut:

Instead of focusing on specific accounts, I wanted to outline the TYPES of accounts journalists (students, professionals and aspiring professionals) should be following.

They include:

  • National News:
    You should be following the big players in national and probably also international news, including but not limited to NYT, WSJ, Washington Post, CNN, NPR and The Guardian. I’d also add in Breaking News, which is a great general news feed for breaking news. Beyond the main organizational feed, follow their top reporters and bloggers. You can learn from and connect with them, as well as become inspired by their good work.

  • Local News:
    You’re probably familiar with whatever the biggest newspaper or news station(s) are in your city. They’re the ones your student news organizations reads/watches/listens to each day with envy at the stories they missed or pride in the scoops the student paper pulled off. Also, don’t forget the also-rans. Sometimes the alternative papers or the suburban/regional news outlets can cover interesting or important stories the big guys miss for lack of feet on the ground. Following a variety of these accounts can help you know what type of ground has already been saturated as well as string together ideas that alone don’t paint a trend but altogether tell a story.

  • The Locals:
    One of the first things I did when I was a reporter on Twitter was to seek out and find local people using Twitter. I searched for keywords on local landmarks/cities and saved searches for them. I followed the local teachers (my beat was education) and parents, and then other interesting local people who seemed to have their heart on the pulse of the community (or if you’re in college, on the school). Interact with these people. They are potential sources for specific stories (I can’t tell you how many times I posted a simple note and ended up with a call from a friend of a friend who saw it on Twitter), and potential sources for story ideas. Did someone complain about the lack of bike lanes, or the shady towing practices? Did someone mention their building on campus just got evacuated? Do they mention a connection to the latest national tragedy that may help you localize it for your audience? You get the idea. It’s worth the afternoon it takes for you to set this up in your current community and down the road any community you move to.

  • The Authorities:
    Is your student body president on Twitter? Is your provost? Is the mayor? Your city council representative? Your congressmen? The schools superintendent? The police chief? If they’re broadcasting potential news or fielding questions from locals, you should pay attention. And you should hold them accountable for any less than professional comments or statements that contradict with other things they’ve said or their actions. Keep them on their toes.

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