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Monday’s release of Twitter for Newsrooms gets mixed reviews

TwitterOn June 27, Twitter released Twitter for Newsrooms (#TfN), an online resource with tips for journalists aimed at improving their use of the social networking site.

This announcement comes just months after the launch of Journalists on Facebook. When the announcing tweet first emerged, retweets began flying. Many weighed in without checking the website out, but initial comments from users who did were a mixture of disappointment and thankfulness. Steve Buttry, who teaches a Georgetown University class on social media and reporting, wrote on his blog that “frankly, I was disappointed with Twitter’s guide. It strikes me as more promotional than helpful (when being more helpful would actually be better promotion, especially with as tough a crowd as journalists).”

Ethan Kappler, online editor of the National Journal, agreed with Buttry, replying, “Well said.” Buttry went on to note several other resources for journalists that not only might be more helpful, but that have also been around a lot longer, such as a tutorial from the Knight Digital Media Center. Advertising and media professional Bethany Schwitchtenbe wrote that the newsroom is “Informative, but a little late.”

One of the most high-profile retweets came from Katie Couric congratulating Erica Anderson, who used to work as a digital strategist for Couric’s Twitter and is now on staff at Twitter Media. Anderson first shared its debut on June 27 via a retweet of Twitter Media’s announcement.

Twitter for Newsrooms aims at a broad media audience, introducing itself by saying: “We know you come from different generations. Some are native to the pilcrow, others native to the hashtag.” New York-based Associated Press reporter Karen Zraick tweeted that she decided to look up the word “pilcrow” after reading the word on Twitter for Newsrooms.

Aside from its greeting, Twitter for Newsrooms’ main content consists of four areas to help journalists get started on Twitter: #Report, #Engage, #Publish, and #Extra. The first, #Report, suggests techniques for searching, which Twitter positions as a way to find sources and follow breaking news. The other sections include a glossary and tips on tweeting (in #Engage), as well as information on Twitter tools (#Publish), and an area for tech support (#Extra).

Twitter for Newsrooms goes into detail on ways journalists can utilize different search functions to keep on top of news and find discussions. Searching has long been tricky on Twitter, which is set up for real-time results from all users. In June 2011, Twitter updated its searching at, and the service now points journalists to make use of the improvements. Searching for key terms here allows reporters to see current discussions around the term, with up-to-the-minute tweets that include the search term. Older tweets are not shown and hard to access through Twitter itself. Instead, Twitter for Newsrooms instructs users to try Topsy, which can pull up searches dating back to 2009 and earlier. As a way for users to narrow their search results, such as to specific cities or countries, and develop a specific angle on a news story, Twitter for Newsrooms suggests its Advanced Search feature. They’re also promoting their newly acquired business TweetDeck, which allows users to monitor multiple conversations around one or more hash-tagged topics at once.

Twitter for Newsrooms shares several examples of journalists using Twitter, but they are not necessarily using the search feature. Featured as an example of an expert Twitter journalist is NPR’s senior strategist Andy Carvin, who seems to be a better example of how Twitter is the newsroom these days. During the uprisings in the Middle East, he verified sources before they were quoted on air about events that were unfolding by the moment, all from NPR’s U.S. office.

While many of Twitter for Newsrooms’ suggestions are not new, there are still several journalists not taking full advantage of what Twitter offers.  It’s too early to tell how useful these tools will be to journalists who have a long to-do list and not much time. Initially, many responders share the sentiments of Kathryn Sharkey, a Southern Methodist University journalism graduate and freelancer, who told inVocus via Twitter that she hasn’t used it yet, “But it seems like it could be useful, especially with searches.” However, she’s still “not quite sure how to use it yet.”

–Rebecca Bredholt

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