Tag Archives: online journalism

Social Media 101: How to Use Twitter, Part 2

26 Mar

Josh Cheesman
@JoshCheesman

Greetings faithful social medions (I have no idea why I just came up with that phrase, so don’t ask me), and welcome back to the (somewhat belated) second part of our guide to using Twitter in a cleverer fashion and not like, well, a twit.

Part 1

So in the last article, I said that if you want to be a proficient tweeter (or twitterer, or twerp, or whatever), you have to talk about something other than yourself. But what? Well, that’s what I’m going to cover today.

It’s all about USP

Mark: You’ve brought a snake?
Super Hans: Yeah. All these young spunks swarming about, you need a USP to gain a market share.
Peep Show, Episode 6.5

USP stands for Unique Selling Point. It’s a concept that comes up a lot in our Online Journalism courses, and one that I personally feel should be the core mantra of any blogger, and by extension, any micro-blogger.

Manta ray

I said "blogger's mantra", not "blogger's manta".

But “Unique Selling Point” sounds like business speak. What does it actually mean?

In a nutshell, USP can be summed up as: “What can I get from you then I can’t get anywhere else?”

You can’t just write a sports blog and copy all your content for the BBC sport site. Why would anyone read it? Why wouldn’t they just go straight to the BBC site themselves, which at the very least will have the advantage that they’ll have all the news up before you?

You wouldn’t do that. You’d add your unique insight  – funny, interesting, intelligent, heck, even just plain old obnoxious – to the stories. Or amalgamate news from several different sites. Or use your own contacts to get stories before anybody else.

But even that isn’t necessarily enough. Put simply, you have to be the best at what you do. You have to be, otherwise why would anyone be interested in reading your sports blog above every other one on the web?

And what’s the easiest way of being the best at what you do? Do something that no one else does. The thing that you do that no one else does is your USP.

USP Your Tweets to the Max

So as you might have guessed from the above header, this principle applies even to Twitter. You hear something, and you want to share it, but before you do, go through the following steps in your head:

  1. Is this story totally unreported?
  2. Do you have any new information about the story?
  3. Do you have an interesting thought to offer? Some facet that no one else has considered?
  4. Do you have a new quote from someone connected to the story?
  5. Do you have something funny to say about the situation?
The Chewbaccalaureate

What you find funny may vary from everyone else.

If you’ve gone through every one of those questions and the answer is “no” to every one, then, well, don’t bother tweeting it.

What should you do instead? Simple: retweet! Retweet!

Read Part 3 here.

Social media and fake stories: how the journalist is reasserting control

22 Mar

Caroline James @CarolineJames1

One of the most significant aspects of using social media to generate online journalistic content is the speed with which stories break, spread and go viral.

But citizen journalists, unlike their official counterparts, don’t have the need to go to quite the same lengths to verify their sources and corroborate their stories. And the anonymity of the Internet makes it all that much harder.  The result? Hoaxes and false stories become trends faster than the mainstream media can pick up the phone to check the facts.

How do you trace a story you’ve heard from someone else, when that person heard it from someone else before and so on? Paul Bradshaw discusses a three-pronged approach to the issue: through content, context and code, he argues we can verify how true those unbelievable stories being disseminated over the Internet really are.  The chances are, they’re just that: unbelievable.

But, I would argue the non-story BECOMES a story by virtue of the speed at which it spreads and the reaction it engenders.  Doesn’t it say something of the nature of people consuming the news that the stories that get the biggest reader reaction – that is, the ones that make you go: “How funny/interesting/ridiculous! I best send that link on to X,Y and Z” – are rarely the big movers and shakers in terms of international importance.

Examples of these hoaxes can be found in their hundreds.  Take the latest story to do the rounds on FB: that Marck Zuckerberg would be shutting down FB on 15th March because of “stress”.

The one that sticks in my mind is the World Cup hysteria surrounding the alleged ban by the police on the St. George’s flag.  Now if ever there was a subject more perfectly poised to engender reaction it was this one.  Friends of mine, outraged, changed their FB statuses ad infinitum and we all decried the PC brigade for their anti-nationalist feeling.

Except it was a hoax.

FB posts like this one capitalised on World Cup fever and spread faster than England left the tournament

So while the outrage spread within minutes on social media, the traditional journalists didn’t see it.  Take the above post from one of my FB network; he posted this on 19th May 2010.  It was two days later that the BBC covered the story, revealing it to be a hoax.  It does not take two days to ring the police and confirm the story, an intern can do it in 10 minutes!

And when we had Charlie Sheen’s death announced on Twitter just weeks ago – twice – NowPublic began reporting it was more than just an innocuous, false story: it was a virus.  Hoaxes spread quickly and viruses are masquerading as them for this very reason.

So where do they come from? Scambusters.org argue that the rise in hoax stories is symptomatic of our obsession with celebrity culture.  And these false stories are self-perpetuating because many celebrities who crave publicity are happy to profit from the attention.

These stories are false.  Reporting a false story is not journalism, reporting ON a false story is.  A case in point is the excellent Starsuckers documentary from 2009 – check out the YouTube video of it:

Once again, social media is helping to forge new inroads into online journalism – and the hoax stories are providing the raw materials to do this.

My Twitter Epiphany

11 Nov

By Ian Kearney

Only a matter of weeks ago I joined Twitter and subscribed to the various news agencies, merely as a college exercise, and already Im using this social media tool as a first source for all my online journalism needs.

On my last trip home to Ireland I sat in an average restaurant in Heathrow airport, paying above average prices for below average food.

Affixed on the wall in front of me a plasma television broadcasting Sky News.

“Breaking news – Suspect packages found on planes at UK airport and in Dubai.” Not the words you want to see on any news report, especially if you are at an airport and even more so if you’re a nervous flyer.

Sky News Television coverage from East Midlands airport

The airport was noisy and I couldn’t quite grab the details of the story, needless to say Sky’s Steve Dixon was infinitely calmer than I was. Then as instinctively as changing gears in a car I pulled out my smart phone, logged into my Twitter account and intercepted updates from Sky Breaking News, BBC Breaking News, Itv News, Channel 4 News and various other news agencies.

As the various agencies tweeted away I was finding out the latest updates soon after the newsrooms themselves and from what I could gather before the venerable Steve Dixon, himself.

I could have used the internet on my phone to go to any news agency’s website but instead I chose to go straight to Twitter.

Why? Quite simply Twitter gave me the ability to check what all the agencies were saying all at once and in 140 characters rather than having to go in and out of each website reading through reams of copy.

In March 2009 Sky News hired Ruth Barnett as their “Twitter” or “Social Media Correspondent” and earlier this year Journalism.co.uk revealed that Sky News had installed Tweetdeck on all their reports computers in what Ms Barnett described as a process of embedding social media throughout the whole team.

This is as clear a sign as any that social media and online journalism go hand to hand and are here to stay.

Sky's Breaking News Twitter account instantly updating the suspect package story.

To get back to Heathrow, when it emerged that the suspect package was on a runway in East Midlands and of no immediate threat I breathed a sigh of relief, ordered a stiff drink and made my way to the departures gate, for which I was already running late.

A whole multitude of questions arises in this field; how is social media affecting online journalism? How is journalism affecting social media? Is social media changing how we source stories? Is social media changing the way we consume news?

This blog will attempt to address some of these questions as well as others in the area.