The days of grabbing newspapers hot off the press are dwindling.
While traditional media outlets might still be the primary news source for many people, Twitter has become a key player in breaking stories. The online site has become the go-to platform thanks to its ability to share content instantly, and while immediacy is a vital factor in all social media platforms, Twitter is perfectly suited for journalists.
In 140 characters or less, your followers can stay up-to-date on a story from beginning to end. The hashtag feature, made prominent by Twitter, allows individuals and readers to follow certain trends and topics.
For example, in British Columbia’s political scene, “#BCPoli,” is the hashtag to follow; if Twitter users are hoping to follow the issues and updates in a city like Surrey, “#SurreyBC” is the hashtag.
Local reporters and news organizations are finding Twitter to be a beneficial tool, especially in a city like Vancouver where networking opportunities are limited.
“Most journalists see [Twitter] now as a kind of an outward tool to get their stories and information and ideas out to the rest of the world,” says Jason Botchford, a journalist with The Province.
Botchford, who covers the Vancouver Canucks, uses Twitter to garner ideas and write stories. The various interactions he’s had with fans, bloggers and colleagues have been encapsulated into something he calls “The Provies,” highlighting the best, funniest and most original tweets about the Canucks and the game.
“That is kind of what I do—daily, or at least two, three times a week every time there’s a game,” he says.
Botchford says that “The Provies” attract a significant amount of attention, saying that they are read by both fans and NHL insiders.
However, the close connection with readers that Twitter provides has a negative side. Users can tweet hateful messages as quickly as a journalist can share news.
Nick Eagland, a self-described “selfie-stick journalist” with the Vancouver Sun and Province, has been hit with negative and “nasty” comments on Twitter in response to things he’s written.
“I do occasionally get nasty tweets from people accusing me of liberal bias, or conservative bias. I get it both ways, so it’s kind of interesting,” he says. “They’re keen to knock down journalists because there’s not a lot of trust in media these days, and so it comes from both sides equally, being accused as right or left wing. I don’t want to put my personal opinion out there to be honest.”
Despite this, both Eagland and Botchford believe that Twitter remains a useful tool and encourage its use—by both new and veteran journalists.
“I didn’t realize how it can be used for research and for sharing information,” says Eagland. He particularly recommends Twitter’s advanced search options for locating people who are going through a time of crisis, or who are being affected by some local issues.
“I totally recommend using it for research and for using information,” he says, “but do it carefully.”