Is there a place for Twitter in the newsroom?

It seems the social networking tool- Twitter has critics in the The Centre for Journalism at Cardiff University already. Some have questioned its usefulness and others have critically compared the site to the Facebook update feature. But surely this live blogging site, which managed to ensure journalist, James Buck’s release from jail after he texted ‘arrested’ to his fellow ‘tweeters’, should be given more of a chance.

Twitter is a free social networking and micro-blogging service that allows its users to ‘tweet’ posts up to 140 characters in length and share them with whoever decides to follow them. For some people, like random user John, this could mean ‘tweeting’ about the musings of everyday life. For journalists this service can offer much more.

Twitter can provide a way of sending headlines to mobiles, a research tool for developing stories or a social networking tool for contacts and leads. The exciting element of Twitter is the fact it can have the potential to break the news cycle down to seconds, allowing news to circulate faster than ever. News of the recent UK earthquake, for example, broke first on Twitter before any other news site. Journalists are therefore using the Twitter search engine to enter keywords like ‘earthquake’ or ‘evacuation’ to get information on breaking news.

Birmingham Post reporter Joanna Gearyuses Twitter regularly using her contacts to get story leads as well as them being able to comment on articles they have read in the newspaper. On October 1 2008, she wrote:

Anyone at New Street Station? Reports coming in that it has been evacuated due to an escalator fire.

@catnip Thanks! Post reporter Emma Brady just talking to fire service now. It was an overheating escalator. Finding out if trains delayed…

The slogan for Bristol Evening Post is ‘at the heart of all things local’ and Twitter allows the newspaper to become that little bit closer. In one of his posts, the Bristol Evening Post reporter gives information about a meeting between himself and the news editor.

Just met with the news editor to discuss tomorrow’s top story – how social services let three children return to their abusing mother.

Sharing inside information on meetings and everyday appointments with followers on Twitter will hopefully improve how the general public trust journalists and in turn demystify journalism as a profession. If in a click of a button, this free service will allow me to network, share personal comments and news headlines and become closer to those who I will be producing articles for, I will certainly catch the twitterbug and hope others around me will do the same.

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