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How to implement social networking into journalism today

February 14, 2010

Steve Buttry discusses Twitter. Photo by Audrey Sawyer

By Heather Holm

The fact that Twitter is the up-and-coming tool for journalists was addressed Saturday afternoon.

Steve Buttry, dubbed the royal prince of social networking, talked about “Are Tweet Flying by You? Social Networking for the Manager in you” during the innovation workshop this weekend in St. Louis.

Buttry is the C3 Coach of Gazette Communications for The Gazette in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Buttry thinks Twitter is the most valuable tool for journalists since the cell phone or the spreadsheet and said the fact that they can be written so quickly just adds to their appeal for journalists.

“Tweets can be written in 20 seconds and are usually 120 characters or less,” he said. “You have to decide what is important.”

Audience members learned that tweeting should be a quick process and not take up someone’s entire day.

“Tweet whatever is appropriate for the day,” Buttry said.

He said Twitter can save journalists’ time and help connect them with sources in a timely manner.

Some examples for how a journalist could use Twitter are getting a reporter in touch with a survivor of a plane crash, the recent earthquake in the Midwest or to get favorite love songs from sources for a newspaper feature on Valentine’s Day.

Buttry likes to follow certain members regularly, such as Sen. Chuck Grassley (R.) of Iowa, and audience member Joe Hight said he likes to follow Shaquille O’Neal.

Buttry also mentioned that sometimes Twitter will have news before popular news sources like the Associated Press have released information on the topic. He gave an example of someone who read a tweet about an earthquake and then felt the room shake.

Journalists can use Twitter to follow people on a specific beat, come up with story ideas, connect with eyewitnesses and drive traffic to blog posts and stories.

During the presentation, journalists were told they should have public profiles to connect with sources and others easier and should still adhere to journalism ethics through their Facebook or Twitter accounts.

They should identify themselves with the social media, separate their personal and professional views and watch their language and opinions.

Arnie Robbins, from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, said during a discussion on ethics and social media that his newspaper has social media guidelines and uses the paper’s ethics policy as a base for those guidelines.

“Editors have twisted themselves into pretzels over this,” he said.

Robbins said if a journalist friends a Democrat on Facebook, then they should in turn friend a Republican to keep a sense of balance.

Buttry agreed and said journalists should still seek the truth and minimize harm while networking.

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