Training Tuesdays: Using Twitter for your student publication

Training Tuesdays: Using Twitter for your student publication

This week’s guest Training Tuesdays is brought to you by Alex Venneman from Kettle Magazine.

In just ten short years, there has been many a revolution in journalism – driven in large part by social media.

Originally sculpted as a way to keep in touch with friends, it has changed how we as journalists think about the consumption of our crafted work as more and more people take to more and more platforms to be instantly informed about events, either on our own university campus, or on the other side of the world.

A recent study from the media and communications company Cision and Canterbury Christ Church University in Kent showed that 54 per cent of UK journalists surveyed said they could not carry out their work without social media – Twitter, unsurprisingly, being their most preferred platform.

So how can you use social media to produce quality stories? Here are our top tips:

If you have a specific patch, follow, talk to and engage with people associated with that beat on that platform. Think of this as net-networking. Beyond followers, using of hashtags (eg #studentmedia, #GE2015) helps navigate those interested in a specific topic to your work and Twitter profile. These people will prove useful sources for future stories.

When you find someone, send them a tweet to ask for an interview. Bear in mind lots of people won’t reply to you directly, so use your journalistic nous and find an alternative means to reach them – phone (always preferred), e-mail or DM.

If stuck for sources, a simple tweet can help. Describe your story and tag the publication/outlet, using #journorequest. People may help direct you to the right place.

It is always worth flagging up that, while an excellent resource, Twitter is full of lots of misinformation – make sure you verify; conjecture very rarely makes good content!  If someone tweets a report about a particular event (eg Nick Clegg announces tuition fees abolished), call the organisation for comment, as that information may be misleading.

The odd exception is if a Twitter account has a blue tick next to it (eg the Prime Minister’s office or a government agency). That means it is a ‘verified’ account, and the information is likely correct. (Beware: All accounts are prone to hacking. See here, here and here. These are often stories in themselves, though.)

In addition, you should treat each news tweet in the same way as the publication of an article: Make sure all relevant enquiries are made before you report. If you do not have confirmation, but want to tweet about it, cite the report in your tweet, and say you’ve reached out for comment.

Not doing so not only increases the risks of others using your claims as evidence for their own articles, but will lose your credibility, and risks breaching article one (accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice. Remember: It is always better to be right than it is to be first.

Finally, while Twitter has changed the nature or journalism for good, to paraphrase a Sam Smith song, Twitter is ‘not the only one’. If you use it properly, and combine newsgathering in this way with other great tools, you are already streets ahead.

So embrace Twitter, dear journalist, for it will change your craft for the better. Just be careful how you use it.

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