Monthly Archives: April 2008

More Twitter: The news organization’s presence

A local blogger, proving that he doesn’t just throw hand grenades at our newspaper’s Web site, offers this piece of friendly advice in his blog today:

Here’s my good deed of the day:

Whoever is in charge of your self-promotion, go over to http://twitter.com and register “pennlive” for an account.

We’d hate to see you not get the domain name which would be the most effective to keeping your Website in the sight lines of the 18-34 demo.

(For clarification, I work at The Patriot-News, and the PennLive Web site that publishes our work online is owned separately by Advance Internet. Which means I couldn’t personally register that name on Twitter, and I wouldn’t have the ability to suggest it more than any other blogger. )

(For further clarification, Twitter is a blogging tool that allows users to post messages only 140 characters at a time. It’s essentially a blog mashed up with a chat room, and there’s a lot of speculation that it’s the next great medium for reaching young people.)

Anyway, I mostly agree with the blogger. It makes more sense to have a presence on Twitter than not to, even if it is as rudimentary as using TwitterFeed to display an RSS feed of recent headlines. Take 20 minutes to set that up once, let people follow you if they want to, and at least you’ll make it available if people seek you out.

That said, using Twitter as a link dump is a big missed opportunity. It’s better used by individual reporters to discuss the stories they’re working on, inviting commentary or criticism, then linking to those stories afterward to drive traffic. It doesn’t feel like a link dump when you’re actually talking to people.

It shouldn’t just be one more example of something old awkwardly being forced into something new.

@whptv is a good example of a local TV station that’s better off being there than not being there. But it has 26 followers in the area, and isn’t bothering to follow anyone back. It clearly says they’re not interested in hearing from you on Twitter, they just want to send more eyeballs to their Web site. It’s not the spirit of the site — Twitter is not the place for I-talk-you-listen.

For now, news organizations ought to set up an account and get those stories pumped through the site, because it takes no maintenance and a very small time commitment to set up.

But if they do that, they ought to also consider a long-term strategy that involves using the site the way it was meant to be used.

UPDATE (3:30 p.m.): John Hassell checks in at his Exploding Newsroom blog with details of a New Jersey network of Twitter users.

Same thing exists in Michigan. Both are on newspaper Web sites.

If the newspaper site doesn’t aggregate local users, chances are someone will. In my town, someone else just did.

ANOTHER UPDATE (7:25 p.m.): I was pleased to see an e-mail come across my in-box at 7:10 p.m. to notify me that “pennlive” is now following me on Twitter. The first two updates are links to a story on the site, and a conversation in the forums.

The first few people that “pennlive” is following are all local bloggers, so kudos to the site for being responsive to the local blogosphere.

Online journalists: Lose the smugness, win a few converts

This will be an unusually confrontational post for me.

That said, Yoni Greenbaum was right on yesterday in pointing out a significant problem in some of the journalists fighting the good fight online:

But, and this might just be because of whom I read, the loudest are the bloggers who complain the most about the industry. These are typically young journalists with a short amount of time at any one job. Their blogs are places for them to publicly whine and throw tantrums in an effort to receive attention and obtain validation for their viewpoints. All too often their posts leave me shaking my head and wanting to grab the authors, give them a smack or two and tell them to wake up and, especially, grow up. But that’s not what this blog is about.

It was a perfect wake-up call to remind myself of my original vow to never become one of those people. I won’t name names, but I’ve often felt exactly the same way reading some journalism bloggers out there.

And I’d add that it’s not just about how the online torch carriers are blogging. I can’t help but think how much I’d hate being a colleague of some of those people, even though I agree 100 percent with what they’re saying. There’s no way that the message, if it’s presented in the “What the hell is wrong with everybody except me?” tone I often read, could be received by anyone who doesn’t already believe it.

Taking a conciliatory approach is a big focus of mine in my own newsroom as I try to share my Web skills with whoever wants to learn. I’ve led newsroom sessions on using Facebook, might soon lead sessions on using RSS and blogging style, reporters often ask for my help searching for profiles on MySpace, and I’ll often have philosophical discussions about things like liveblogging big events and why it’s worthwhile to be worrying about this Internet thing in the first place.

As a snot-nosed 23-year-old, the youngest person in the newsroom, there’s no way any of that would be received well if I was yelling at the people with whom I was trying to share my perspective. If I put them on the defensive every time they talk to me, they’re not going to talk to me very often.

Shouldn’t people with those skills be focused on finding the best way to share them, instead of caustically demanding that others catch up?