Ally's Blog

Towson alum discusses Twitter as an advance in journalism

By: Ally McNamara
TU journalism student | Oct. 15, 2009

Brian Stelter uses Twitter to share stories already published in The New York Times.  Stelter was a writer for The Towerlight while he attended Towson University.

Brian Stelter uses Twitter to share stories already published in The New York Times. Stelter wrote a blog, TVNewser, for The Towerlight while he attended Towson.

The New York Times hired Towson Alum, Brian Stelter, after graduation to continue blogging about television and cover television and digital media for the paper.

What is your favorite aspect of using Twitter as a journalist?

Like other Internet tools, Twitter can be whatever the user wants it
to be.  It can be an early warning system for breaking news, a platform
for sharing the news, an online conversation with readers, a database
of sources for stories, an automated news clipping service, or a tool
to keep tabs on competitors. I use it in all of these ways, as well as
others.

My favorite aspect of Twitter is probably the community sensibility
that it fosters.  I feel more accountable to my readers, and more
available to them.  Thanks to that, my work improves in subtle ways.

How are Twitter and other social media sites helpful to spread the news you uncover?

Twitter helps me tap into audiences that otherwise wouldn’t see my work.

I have found that when I post an especially urgent bulletin, it can be
retweeted hundreds of times, like the world’s fastest domino effect.
When I reported that Walter Cronkite had died in August — and
reported it before CBS or any other news organization had said so — I
posted the link on Twitter immediately and found myself retweeted
hundreds of times.  As the retweets reached further, I reached
thousands of people who learned the news from my Twitter feed.

How long have you been using Twitter and other social media sites to publish your stories?

I have been on Twitter since April 2008.  I feel like a relatively late
adopter, since the service started in early 2007. But compared to many
journalists, I had a head start, which allowed me to gain a wide
audience on the site.

I don’t use Twitter to “publish my stories,” per se, but instead I use
it to share the stories that are already published in The New York
Times or on NYTimes.com.  Separately, I sometimes also use Twitter to
break news before I write an article about it.

What advice do you have for up and coming journalists using Twitter?

Listen more than you talk.  For every minute you spend writing tweets,
spend ten minutes reading tweets.  Don’t merely add to the twitosphere
(terrible term, I know) — learn from it.  This is simply a twist on
the most important advice any aspiring journalist can receive: to
read, read, read.  Before producing media, consume media.

Practically: Follow professional journalists, follow entertainers,
follow ordinary people who tweet ordinary things, follow news
organizations, follow partisan political figures, and follow your
enemies.  Listen.

And when you tweet, know that you’re saying something that could
conceivably be stored forever.  Make each tweet matter.  After all,
other people are listening.

Is there anything you dislike about using Twitter to publish your stories?

Again, I would draw a distinction between publishing the stories on
Twitter and sharing them on Twitter.

There is nothing I particularly dislike about using Twitter to share my stories.

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