Tag: Twitter

#oneman’spound #isanotherman’shashtag

Twitter has released a handbook for journalists.  It’s goal?  To make using Twitter easier for reporters, producers, and other journalists who use the micro-blogging site to inform their work.

Twitter for Newsrooms features sections like “report” and “engage.” When I first saw the site, I was excited to learn that Twitter has finally realized that a large portion of their content is tweeted, or retweeted, by journalists, and that they were seeking to make things easier for those of us who are starting to use the social network for source-building and storytelling.

It seems that the guide has very little to offer the journalist who is already twitter-literate, however. Which is not to say that it can’t be a valuable resource for new journalists, or for journalists who are nostalgic for the days when they used typewriters and, using a land line phone, called their editors and read their copy to a typist back at the bureau.

The thing I like most about the guide is how simple it is, and how easy I think it might be for someone like those grizzled old scribblers to understand. It’s value lies in teaching both the new to Twitter and the new to journalism how best to use the site in an ethical and straightforward way.

How do you use Twitter?

Coming next week: A bit of shameless self-promotion and a rant about the need for self-promotion.

Tweet your politician

Tweet your politician

On Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, scores of fresh-faced young people sit behind desks jammed into entryways and hallways in congressional offices answering phones.  These intrepid congressional aides answer calls about passports and capitol tours, jobs for the unemployed and affordable energy for the elderly.

The U.S. Constitution states that any citizen has the right to petition the government for “a redress of grievances,” and, largely, that is what these people are doing.

But there’s a new game in town when it comes to contacting your congressman, and, indeed, the President.

The White House announced last week a new Director of Progressive Media and Online Response, Jesse Lee.  Lee will, essentially, patrol Twitter to address problems and quash negative stories on a grassroots level.

Many businesses have already employed this approach, from airlines to packaged foods, with varying levels of success, but what this move suggests to me is that the Obama administration is moving towards more and more direct conversation with constituents, and they’re not the only one.

According to Tweet Congress, a site dedicated to aggregating Twitter feeds from members of congress and the media that cover them, 387 members of congress are using the micro-blogging platform, including the current and former Speakers of the House and 2008 Republican Presidential Nominee John McCain.

So in the future, instead of “call your congressman” will the grassroots organizer’s rallying cry be “tweet your senator?”  Maybe not, but, when done effectively, a twitter account can be an excellent way for government officials to have two-way communication with their constituents.

To be effective, the politicians (or, more likely, their aides), will have to use Twitter less as a medium to broadcast their policy positions and public events, and more as a two-way conversation about issues and a rapid-response mechanism for urgent constituent demands.

For example, a citizen might tweet at their congressman that they are having a problem with their social security benefits.  That congressman should immediately follow up, get more details, including contact information, and then work to solve the problem.  A happy constituent would be likely to tweet about their success with this process, creating goodwill for the congressman in return.  (This is very much like the way that airlines are dealing with disgruntled passengers who tweet their displeasure at delays and cancellations, or even just bad service).

But this level of accessibility and interactivity is a double-edged sword.  If the congressman is not able to solve the problem, or simple uses Twitter as a broadcast medium rather than a conversation, savvy followers will let him know that he’s not serving their needs.  Depending on the magnitude of his following, this could result in problems come election time.

So, are politicians on social media a good thing?  In general, I think so, especially if it means they are more accessible to the people they were elected to serve.  But they better have some smart, responsive people working the back end, or we may just hear about the politician that was fired by Twitter.

The most important news of the century, brought to you by Twitter

This post was adapted from a news analysis assignment in a class called “Building Networked Audiences”

When news started to slip out around 9pm ET on Sunday night that the President was making a big announcement regarding National Security, speculation was the game of the hour.  At first, people were assuming the big speech was to be on Libya, given that, about 24 hours earlier, the U.S. had announced that they killed Ghaddafi’s son in a mortar attack on the compound.

As the minutes wore on, key White House staff began to leak small details.  “Not on Libya” was the first word from journalists inside the press room.  Speculation then turned towards the “other war,” a war we used to call “the forgotten war” at internal meetings at my old job.  Could it be Afghanistan?

And then, like so many key aides before him, the leak came.  Donald Rumsfeld’s current chief of staff, Keith Urbahn, confirmed that he had heard “from a reputable source” that Osama Bin Laden was dead.

Nothing about this story, from the earliest speculation to the final, crucial leak, is unusual in Washington circles, except that all of this unfolded primarily on Twitter.

As the television networks scrambled to get a signal from the White House, reporters and producers tweeted out details they were hearing.  The TV networks, with the anchors in newsrooms in New York or Washington, then repeated the tweets, fueling the cycle.  The frenzy was aided by the fact that the Presidential announcement, originally intended for 10:30pm ET, actually took place closer to midnight on the East Coast, and so, network anchors had some time to fill.

On Monday, a Mashable.com poll asked readers “Where did you find out?” The response was clear.  Over 53 percent of the 19,900 responses were social media sources Facebook, Twitter, and Instant Messaging.

Mashable.com created a nifty interactive timeline of the some significant tweets last night, showing how the information spread from one key source through major news and opinion sites.  Twitter today reported that Sunday night’s announcement was the highest sustained activity ever seen on the micro-blogging site.

I was one of the people who found out on Twitter.  Because I used to work in Washington, I follow many of the DC Journalists that were at the White House last night when things began to stir.  In the coming days and weeks, I expect to hear many stories about where people were and what they were doing when they found out.  I expect many of those stories to include the social media that we all increasingly rely on for up-to-the minute developing stories.

I, for one, did my part, retweeting and posting to facebook as much information from as many reputable sources as I could gather.   The real news here is how one man, Keith Urbahn, who has less than 7,000 followers can become a celebrity overnight through reblogging and retweeting from his followers to their much larger networks.

Canadians’ tweets could violate 1930s law

This post was adapted from a news analysis assignment in a class called “Building Networked Audiences”

Elections Canada, the non-partisan agency that conducts Canadian elections, has announced that it plans to enforce a ban on tweets about election results based on a provision in a 1930s election law designed to prevent news agencies from announcing results before all polls are closed.

The penalty for the 140-character offense? Up to $25,000 or 5 years in prison, according to Mashable.com. The original intent of the law was to prevent radio stations on the east coast from influencing voter turnout on the west coast, where polls close up to 4 and a half hours later.

Ottawa Citizen’s political commentator Kathryn Marshall questions the necessity of characterizing tweets and Facebook statuses as broadcasts. Does it matter, she asks, if the Facebook poster in question has 10 friends or 1,000? She notes that the “twitterverse” is planning a “tweet-in” of election results in protest.

Of course, in the U.S., with our First Amendment protections, no such law could hold water. And, yet, major broadcasters have long had a gentlemen’s agreement not to “call” a race until after all of the polls are closed. In presidential races, this has the effect of there being no clear winner until sometime after 9 p.m. Eastern Time. The idea is that if a news network in New York starts telling people in California that one candidate has won quite a few eastern states, those voters in California may be less interested in voting.

I’m not sure that me tweeting out 140-characters about voter turnout in Chillicothe, Ohio, has the same effect.

Besides the obvious free speech argument, Elections Canada has admitted that it is impossible to uniformly enforce this law with the resources that they have. Not being particularly familiar with the Canadian election system, it is hard for me to imagine that anyone would have any reliable information about winners and losers that doesn’t have access to a massive polling organization, like the Associated Press does here in the United States during our elections. Assuming that Canadian journalists work within the same ethical framework as American journalists, what exactly are they afraid people will announce?

Unfortunately, I can imagine that there are political strategists out there trying to figure out how and what to tweet on May 2nd to either encourage or discourage western province voters from going to the polls.

The issue of Twitter and the Canadian election may seem like a parody of the web age, but it does bring important questions to mind. Who is controlling the news now, and to what end?

In an age before twitter and Facebook, mainstream news organizations could collude together to keep a story out of the press. This was sometimes used for political reasons, but more often was used for valid reasons, such as the safety of journalists in war zones. Now that the mainstream media has lost this option, there are conceivably things that will get out that maybe shouldn’t have. Is this a necessary evil of a democratic World Wide Web? What are the alternatives?