The Case For Twitter

Boston Globe editor Marty Baron's first tweet echoed my own feelings about the importance of Twitter for today's journalists.

Last week, Boston Globe editor Marty Baron began tweeting after working 10 years as the paper’s editor. The Poynter Institute’s Jim Romenesko asked him what advice the Twitter newbie had for editors still without public/private/hidden accounts, to which Baron replied:

My advice: This is the world journalists live in. Like it or not, you can’t ignore it. And if you can’t ignore it, participate fully. Just be careful you don’t tweet something that could cut short your career.

Romenesko also compiled a detailed list of the top ten U.S. newspapers by circulation and the Twitter status of their editors. I have copied and pasted the list here:

1. Wall Street Journal, Robert ThomsonHe claims to have a “secret” account.
2. USA Today, John Hillkirk. He does not appear to be tweeting.
3. New York Times, Bill Keller. He last tweeted on June 27.
4. Los Angeles Times, Russ Stanton. He does not appear to be on Twitter.
5. San Jose Mercury News, David Butler. He does not appear to be on Twitter.
6. Washington Post, Marcus Brauchli. He does not appear to be tweeting.
7. New York Daily News, Kevin Convey. He tweeted eight hours ago.
8. New York Post, Col Allan. He does not appear to be on Twitter.
9. Chicago Tribune, Gerould Kern. He last tweeted on June 28.
10. Chicago Sun-Times, Don Hayner. He does not appear to be on Twitter.

The results of the list aren’t exactly surprising, but they’re not good, either. The fact of the matter is that, like Baron said, journalists must adapt within a changing technological landscape. 20 years ago, most of these editors probably thought email wasn’t worth their time. Now I’d bet everything I own that all of them have multiple email accounts. While it’s acceptable for newsmen to ignore Twitter now, soon it will become just as ridiculous to not  have an account as it is for editors to not have email or cell phones these days.

Journalism changes just as much as people change. If readers are using cell phones, email, websites or  Twitter, then editors have to get on board or they’ll fall behind. I don’t think it’s laziness–editors have just as much time to tweet 140 characters once a day (or week) as the rest of us. Most of the men listed above, I’m guessing, just don’t have the drive to make an effort on Twitter. Stubbornness isn’t an attractive quality, even on powerful newspapermen like those listed above.

The New York Times' Bill Keller doesn't seem to be extremely supportive of Twitter.

I’d wager that many of them see Twitter as a joke. They assume it’s impossible to tweet anything serious in such a short amount of characters. But that’s an incorrect assumption. Sure, there are always people who use the newest technology superficially (like cat memes on the internet, terrible poetry from the 1800s or forwarding pictures of cartoons via email) and a look at some of NYC’s trending topics are proof of that (#undateable#arentyoutiredof#umustbecrazy). But when you have only 140 characters, tweeting becomes an exercise in slicing up and choosing the most important information from a phrase or sentence. Isn’t providing people with the most important and relevant information to them what journalism’s all about?

More so, with that 140 character limit, I find myself re-wording and phrasing everything I tweet very carefully. I think it’s made me a more concise writer.

So my point, in 140 characters or less:

To the newspapermen NOT on Twitter: Get on board, guys, before the rest of us leave you behind.

On a completely unrelated note: it’s a little daunting, for a female journalist like myself, to see that ALL of those newspaper editors listed above are newspapermen. Which is why I’m looking forward to Jill Abramson taking Bill Keller’s place. It’s a little disappointing, however, that her Twitter account is just as pathetic as his.


One thought on “The Case For Twitter

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