(A version of this appeared in the Oklahoma Press Association Publisher last month as part of my monthly column, Clark's Critique.)
“You need a ‘Batman belt’ to be a journalist,” Dave Rhea of the Journal Record, the daily business newspaper, told my students this year.
Even though the context was my new “Twitter for Journalists” class, he was specifically talking about journalists having a lot of different skills, not just about technology. They need to be versatile, able to get the story out in several ways.
I think that’s true of anyone out looking for a job and career these days.
He describes twitter as part of the “disruptive technology” that has changed almost all industries in the past few years, but none more so than journalism.
Geezers like myself may scoff at twitter and other social media in all areas, and almost everyone overlooks that journalism has always been a child of technology. I’ve had to try to educate myself on this new-fangled stuff, especially since working journalists like Dave and others, advised us academics that our students need to be adept at it.
In teaching the class—two weeks of six hours a day, with all sorts of majors in it, I’ve relied on bringing in professionals in all fields, and we have learned much.
I’ll admit, as someone near the end of a career, I don’t need or use twitter much other than to promote by blog, but I’m convinced anyone involved in journalism and communication needs to know about it. So what follows are some brief—in keeping with the briefness of twitter—pointers from my speakers.
· Almost every major news story in the past few years has been broken on twitter.
· Twitter has become almost a new wire service.
· It’s especially valuable in local news, if you have a strong list of followers who can keep you updated.
· It’s a fast way to get news, but you always need to verify
· Rather than harm writing, it ought to help it, by making you value every word.
· It’s more a conversation than Facebook. Facebook has a longer “shelf life.”
· Twitter is the New Age paper boy.
· Don’t write anything on twitter, or your blog, you wouldn’t want your grandmother to read.
· There is nothing off the record with a room full of people, and twitter.
· Media isn’t dying, just the old profit margins.
· Having 140 characters is no excuse for being incomplete.
· With twitter you have an entire network of sources to choose from.
· Someone always knows someone who is the source I need.
· Twitter works best in breaking news when mainstream media can’t yet assemble all the facts.
· It can be a living, breathing tip sheet for facts, sources and story ideas.
· Social media blurs the lines between personal and professional.
· Twitter is not ruining journalism.
· It’s still about content.
· Twitter is like any other tool. Do something useful, and it’s useful.
In addition to Dave @jdavereha, my other guest speakers include Mike Sherman @MikeSherman, sports editor for The Oklahoman; freelancer and former community journalist Heide Brandes @HeideWrite; broadcast veteran and UCO colleague Desiree Hill @dezhill; Good Egg media guru Sheri Guyse @MyJrny; and HR maven Jessica Merrill @blogging4jobs. Follow us all, if you wish. I’d be glad to reciprocate. Merrill has written a book that is invaluable, Tweet This—twitter for business.
Four more items.
There are many tutorials on twitter on YouTube if you need advice. I also use Twitter for Dummies.
The Oklahoman’s sports headlines are an example of successful tweeting. Sherman has a huge list of fans who tweet him suggestions for headlines on games. The Oke takes them, edits and revises, but it is reader interaction and citizen journalism at its best.
In advertising and PR, twitter is essential . Guyse noted that the last several restaurants opened by Good Egg spent not one dollar in advertising for successful openings. It was all social media that brought in crowds.
All the speakers said they wouldn’t hire people who couldn’t use twitter professionally.