Reality Style Reporting Using Twitter
Even though professional news outlets raised questions about infringement in the blogging context often, the enthusiasm that’s involved in ordinary people’s writing has proven far greater than the dangers cited. Testimony the unstoppable spread of grassroots journalism.
So how can a reality style approach by Twittering journalists become a journalistic ‘product’? It will be trial and error to begin with. You can start by publishing your reporter Twitters about your professional efforts and hope that editors pick up on it. One finding of our research is that reality style soaps on a number of occasions feature journalists. So journalists have captured the imagination of playwrights often, but the idea of journalism operating the concept themselves has yet to take root. Which is interesting, because if you are using Twitter in any way journalistically, much of your efforts will involve setting a stage for a hyper interesting experience.
Stage management thus far has been a process that’s been conducted entirely in the journalist’s head. Everybody writing out their list of questions does so, anticipating the answers more or less. That comes pretty close to setting a scene. What is going to happen on the reporTwitter site will become the world’s first documented journalist reality style reporting efforts and we'll see how the crossbreeding evolves. Since journalists can’t help but review all the time, analysis of the events will likely materialize spontaneously.
The difference between Twittering or microblogging and live reporting is not that big. Twittering journalists are commenting on their own participation in life way more than your average life reporter. The newness of reporTwitters is that audiences are informed of the circumstances amid which a certain report was written.
They get to know what the external factors have been that shaped the story. A key factor here is integrity of course. A journalist out to create a name for himself by unjustified means won’t be liked very much. On the other hand, like many reality style shows, tediousness needs to be avoided too.
At the moment there are around 300 journalist Twitter users around the world. We browsed their feeds and tried to find what makes for great material. Walking the fine line between professional life and personal comments is what most people are focusing their twitters on.
The BBC’s Ben Hammersley’s twitterfeed is somewhat indicative of what those hard nosed news hounds are telling the world about their activities. Covering the Turkish elections last July he twittered about everything under the sun, just like most other journo Twitters. Analysing his tweet, we generally found that his comments could be ranked from least interesting to mildly interesting to very interesting. Least were his many “got the edit to Bush house” lines. These are less and less interesting after the elapse of time. But when you follow Hammersley and get a Twitter that he’s just filed a report you can switch on the tv and see it. That is quite neat in real time. Mildly interesting were his observations in restaurants, on the streets. He described a lunch like this “decor of the cafe; sheep with necklaces’. The most interesting comments were anecdotal, yet you would not really expect to hear them elsewhere in his reports. One example is his tweet about the Turkish army across the road phoning their office because they wanted a camera stand removed for security reasons.
The Twitters might not immediately be earth shattering, but for people to have the idea that they are connecting to a scene, personal detail is hugely important. Did the Turkish army’s telephone call influece the news? Not really, but perhaps he missed a deadline because of practical hassles. That’s nice to know. And people following him real time knew why the wall behind him suddenly had become a window. They will have felt like insiders. That is an as yet unrealized aim of journalism.
Tweets of journalists are most interesting when they exploit the full potential of Twitter by stage managing your efforts. You have a great opportunity to set up interviews and deliver your personal take on the news. For instance, you can list all the reasons why you are writing about the topic you are covering. Or why you want to interview a person on your Twitter. You could even invite the interviewee on the system. You’d be most succesful if you grabbed their attention, so why not think of a controversial hypothetical headline and upload it to Twitter ahead of the invite? This way, the person you invite will read it in their email that is set to them and most likely check out your Twitters. If you’re any good, the sparks will fly!
Disclosure: the author of the report is a Twittering journalist on www.reporTwitters.com. You can also check out the reportwitters blog: http://blog.reporTwitters.com