How To Use Twitter For Reporting

Posted by Stephanie Kocer 

A lot of us gather our news throughout the day from our Twitter feeds. How can we be sure though if the information that is being tweeted out is true? How do we know what to believe and what to dismiss as junk? As journalists, should we be using Twitter as a tool for our reporting? The answer is yes, but we have to use it wisely.

Screen shot 2013-02-06 at 3.02.31 PMPhoto by Slava Baranskyi 

The Poynter Institute explains in an article that Twitter can actually be very helpful before, during, and after our reporting. We should also be using it to inspire story ideas, share news, and communicate with other journalists. Social media is our friend. Here are a few things from the Poynter article that I find helpful for us as student journalists.

  1. We should be tweeting out links to stories we have written. That way people will be able to see what you have written and may even retweet it to their followers.
  2. It is boring when you just tweet a headline of something you wrote. Instead we should try to show our personality in the tweet. Try to describe what you liked about the story, or give an inside scoop on what your reporting process was like.
  3. When you are tweeting information always make sure you verify it first. This will make you more credible. You can live tweet a breaking news story to get your followers interested in what you’re saying, but make sure you know for sure what you are tweeting is the truth. We all know how rumors can get out of hand on Twitter.

With that being said, how do we verify if something is true or not on Twitter? Steve Buttry the Digital Transformation Editor for Digital First Media and Journal Register Co. recently wrote a blog with tips on how to verify things on Twitter. Here are a few of his tips that I found easy and useful.

  1. If you do use Twitter for some of your early reporting you should have some main sources that you look to for news.
  2. If you are getting information from a Twitter account always remember to go to their profile and do a little creeping. What else can you find out about them? What else have they been tweeting? Do they seem to tweet accurate information?
  3. Check the time of the tweet. If someone tweeted something about an event right after it happened it could mean they are at the scene reporting it. If someone tweets about an event several hours after the event has occurred it could just mean they are relaying information that they just got from their Twitter feed. Photos are also a good indicator if someone was at the scene or not.
  4. Try to look for other people tweeting about the event to see if what they are saying is matching up with the information you have gathered. Never have just one source.
  5. Check and see what kind of people and organizations the person is following as well as who is following them. Do they follow legitimate news sources or only things like Very Grumpy Cat?

    How do you use Twitter in reporting and connecting with others in the journalism world?

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One response to “How To Use Twitter For Reporting

  1. I didn’t really start making use of my Twitter account until it started to become a requirement for my journalism courses, so I am still learning the in’s and out’s of how to use twitter effectively to both generate and navigate news.

    But I did find that tweeting blogs that you write increase your traffic and helps in building a following of readers. Also being in the first few to tweet breaking news is a great way to get re-tweets.

    As far as the reliability of sources on Twitter when receiving news I never really seconded guessed the validity of the stories, but after reading this and learning how to fact check via Twitter. I will be more mindful to research before I re-tweet.

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