I noticed a tweet from a professor of mine earlier this morning that read:
“Some of the #SimpsonCollege #BNR students have absolutely no idea how to use Twitter as a journalism tool.”
First off, I couldn’t agree more. From following a few of the Beginning News Writing and Reporting students’ Twitter feeds, it’s evident that many of the students haven’t realized the tool’s full potential. They use a technique (I know from experience) of tweeting information and Simpson news found in emails just to meet the minimum requirements for the class. Yes, it’s unfortunate and can be annoying to follow…but then again, we all start somewhere.
I went back through and dug up some of my old tweets from when I was in Beginning News Writing and Reporting. They were boring. They demonstrated a complete misunderstanding of the use of the hashtag. So I thought, “what were the blocks that held me back from a more thorough understanding of Twitter and why don’t students embrace it more enthusiastically?”
One of the first things I realized is that Twitter as a journalistic tool will only be embraced by journalism students who have a passion for journalism. I’m not convinced that all of my peers have an honest-to-god, live it and breath it passion for journalism. For me, the passion didn’t really hit until sophomore year, so that’s not to say that many of them won’t catch the fever. It’s just that, despite professors’ insistence, many don’t recognize Twitter as a 24/7 journalistic tool.
The second factor that proved to be a setback for me was something a lot of students suffer from: not having a smartphone. It’s arguable, but without a smartphone, Twitter loses much of its excitement. It’s hard to be engaged in Twitter’s conversation with a traditional cell phone, as all the incoming tweets will fill up your inbox. It ends up that for many, the only time to be on Twitter is when a computer is accessible and then Facebook wins the attention-span battle. To fight this, it all goes back to a blog post that Brian Steffen, another professor, wrote earlier in the year about the essential tools for journalism. If you’re a BNR student reading this and you don’t have a smartphone, trust me, it’s the wisest investment you will make in your career as a journalist.
Lastly, while I may be completely off here, from my observation, it doesn’t seem as though some journalism students are plugged into what’s going on in the media world. When it comes to using Twitter as a tool, this is important. Following journalists who use Twitter in great ways is really the only way to learn the skill. A few on top of my list are Andy Carvin (@acarvin), whose Twitter feed documents the situation in Libya and other countries in uprising and Kathie Obradovich (@KObradovich), who is a political columnist at the Des Moines Register. The way they deliver up-to-the-minute news via Twitter is revolutionizing the way consumers use media and on a smaller scale, I think it’s important that students incorporate their techniques and adapt them to fit their own style.
So although I agree with my professor’s tweet, I think it’s important to remember that all aspects of multimedia journalism are trial and error procedures. The only way students will improve is with time, practice and exposure to this medium.