Tag Archives: Twitter

When protesters are outside, Twitter beats local newspaper site

A little past 9 a.m. today, a long fleet of truckers roared down the central business area of Harrisburg, all incessantly honking their horns. Some had signs taped outside their windows, revealing that they were protesting gas prices at the Capitol.

Interesting story, as anyone who lives or has an office downtown surely has heard them.

So let’s compare “coverage” from Twitter users and the local newspaper’s Web site, shall we?

Dani_PA Dani_PA PA truckers “convoying” to Capitol today to protest gas prices.Gas is too expensive, so they’re spending mucho $$ to drive w/o pay? (9:10 a.m.)

Daniel Victor bydanielvictor Trucks blaring horns on 2nd Street in protest of gas prices. Normally I’d be amused but they woke me up. Was looking fwd to sleeping in.

Daniel Victor bydanielvictor Thought it was a Three Mile Island alarm or some other apocalypse notification system.

Aaron Gotwalt gotwalt Hundreds of tractor trailers driving by the office honking their horns to protest gas prices. It’s like a hangover simulator.

Larry Marburger lmarburger I’m sure a horn-blaring truck convoy will lower the price of gas. Thank you, Harrisburg.

Greg Newman 20seven @bydanielvictor Is it that crazy downtown?

Daniel Victor bydanielvictor @20seven A bit quieter now, but still hard to hear my TV. Pennlive says they’re going to Capitol: http://tinyurl.com/2sxq25

Greg Newman 20seven @bydanielvictor yeah, all inlets to harrisburg are supposed to be backed up, plus a overturned TT on 81 north on or at the bridge

Dani_PA Dani_PA I HATE PA TRUCKERS AND THEIR HORNS. Nonstop for 30 min. Doesn’t Harrisburg have a noise violation policy? Why aren’t they getting ticketed!

Maurice Reeves MauriceReeves @Dani_PA LOL. you must be hearing the rally at the State Capitol building. I’m glad I’m not in Harrisburg right now.

Now let’s compare that all with what readers would find at the local newspaper’s Web site at 9:55 a.m.:

Traffic around The Capital Complex could be complex this morning when 75 truckers bring their rigs without trailers into downtown Harrisburg for a 10 a.m. rally. (emphasis added)

The newspaper’s update has more details, of course. But I italicized “could be complex” because it’s predictive, where as Twitter is immediately reactive.

Twitter showed me a variety of sources, and I laughed out loud at the “hangover simulator” comment.

Twitter allowed @20seven to ask a witness — whether or not I’m a reporter, I’m sure, was irrelevant — about what’s happening right now.

Twitter allowed me to link to our newspaper’s Web site for details.

And Twitter allowed @20seven to tell me, and any of his other followers, about traffic details I wouldn’t know about any other way.

Now I’m not criticizing my newspaper’s handling of it. In fact, it shows we’ve come a long way in that a morning newspaper can tell people why there are a bunch of horns blaring outside their window at 9 a.m.

The newspaper’s Web site did as well as it could under how we currently operate. Problem is, this experience on Twitter shows how the supposed immediacy of blogging just won’t be immediate enough as more people find their way to services like Twitter.

My one-month Twitter Twial

twitter-logo.jpgIf you read other journalism blogs, it’s Twitter this Twitter that. Twitter Twitter Twitter. Twitter will cure cancer. Twitter will save the world. Twitter is the now, Twitter is the future, Twitter will replace oxygen.

There’s a near-consensus out there, coming from a lot of people who I highly respect. People I align myself with on virtually every Web-related issue.

That’s why it feels so strange to disagree so strongly on this single issue.

I’ve just never bought the Twitter talk. I’ve never agreed that it would be at all useful for my reporting. I’ve never believed it would have any application to my social life.

But how can I ignore all those reliable voices when I’ve never tried it?

With that in mind, yesterday I began my Twitter Twial.

For one month, I’m going all-out. I started following all my favorite j-bloggers (and in return got a few followers who’ve likely never heard of me). I searched for locals. I searched for friends. I added a link to my Twitter page in my Facebook profile, and the Contact page on this blog.

I installed the Twitbin add-on to my Firefox browser at work and at home. I added a Twitter widget to display my latest Tweets on the blog here. I will feed links to my blog posts into Tweets. I’ve Twittered several times a day. I’ve had conversations there.

I’m going to give it my all for a full month. I’m going to keep an open mind for a full month. Then I’ll revisit this post and see if I’ve changed my mind about my two main skepticisms:

1) There just aren’t enough local users to help my reporting. The lack of net-savvy users in my area isn’t in my imagination. Twitterlocal found exactly one Tweet from my paper’s circulation area in the past 24 hours. And that came from someone I had already found through her blog. (A search on the Twitter site itself turns up slightly better results, but not much better.)

In my coverage area of Hershey, Pa., there isn’t a single active user.

And I’m not the only one complaining about the lack of bloggers/social media users in the area — two of the few we have, Brian Polensky and Jersey Mike — beat me to it.

If there aren’t enough people to learn from, there isn’t much of a point in me being there. I’m not going to insult or annoy the local users I do add by using my account as a link dump.

2) There just aren’t enough users to improve my social life. The only “real person” — that is, someone I’ve met in real life — with an account is a fellow reporter who shares my Twitter skepticism but is also curious about it. I asked all my friends, via my Facebook status, if anyone else was on it. No response, and searching through my friends didn’t turn any users up. So using the site to improve relationships with current friends seems pretty out of the question.

Last night, seeing Digidave ask via a Tweet if anyone was up for a 9 p.m. Taco Bell run helped me understand why it’d be such a great tool for him, and why I may never get to that point. (If only you lived in Harrisburg, Dave — I’m always up for a TB run.)

As it stands, Twitter strikes me as a great idea that only works in certain areas. Admittedly, Meranda Watling — probably my favorite blogger because I can better relate to the size of her paper and town than most of the other bloggers out there — makes me think twice about that claim.

That’s why I’m really giving this a serious try. I’m very willing to be proven wrong on this.

How do journalists grow social networking in a small(er) town?

twitter.jpgA lot of the most spirited arguments for social media are often made in places where there’s already a tech-savvy audience built in.

Yet in a place like Harrisburg, Pa., which is home to the country’s 86th-biggest newspaper and the No. 41 television market, there are a total of nine people on Twitter who have updated their status in the past six days. A local TV station has taken the initiative to faithfully feed its headlines to Twitter, and for its efforts has been rewarded with just 20 followers.

And if you search for my coverage area — the town of Hershey, Pa. — there isn’t a single tweet from the town in the past six days.

The blogging landscape, despite a dedicated few who are doing their best to prop it up, is similarly small.

As a “traditional journalist” who embraces new media as a keystone of journalism’s future, I’ve wrestled with the question: Is it partly my own responsibility to promote new media in the area? And how would I go about doing that?

To an extent I’m doing it, but maybe not enough. I encourage better blogging practices and better blogger relations in my newsroom, of course. As part of the beatblogging.org project, I started The Hershey Home to get people who aren’t on Facebook or MySpace to participate in the online discussion.

But individual reporters can only chip away at the problem — it would take an organization-wide commitment to really make a difference. It would require serious — not token — linking to local blogs. A significant effort to use Twitter as a distribution tool. A real two-way presence on Facebook, instead of using it just to solicit sources on regional home pages.

If newspaper organizations could somehow boost the use of social media in their own areas, it would no doubt have long-term benefits for both the communities and the newspaper organizations themselves. Outside the big cities, there are a lot of newspapers that ought to be thinking about how to do that.