New York Times Media Reporter Brian Stelter will appear on an 1:30 p.m. AEJMC Panel Discussion on “Social Media on Crisis Coverage and Crisis Management During a Natural Disaster.”
ST. LOUIS– Even though I haven’t yet seen his performance in the new Page One film, Brian Stelter will be making an appearance Wednesday here at the AEJMC Annual Conference. So I’ll at least get to hear the New York Times media reporter in person.
On Wednesday, he talks about the “Impact of Social Media on Crisis Coverage and Crisis Management During a Natural Disaster.” The 1:30 p.m. session occurs exactly 24 hours before I lead a session on the teaching aspect of extreme weather.
In an interview published by Dailyactor.com last month, Stelter said Twitter is:
An early warning system for breaking news
A tool for interacting with readers
A great way to promote and improve our work.
We’ll look to see WHAT ELSE he says about this particular social media outlet on Wednesday.
It was her “Staying on Top of Technology” session at the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) Midwinter Meeting of the Scholastic Journalism Division where she introduced the concept of microblogging and the Twitter tool.
After that introduction at The Poynter Institute in January 2008, I came back to Alabama and started my account. Three-and-a-half years later, I finally know how to use Twitter and people are following me.
Tightening Up on Twitter as You Teach It
I frequently quote my colleague, Sybril Bennett (Belmont University) who says Twitter is about research, relationships and reputation.
Dr. Syb (as she’s known in the Twitterverse) is right on!
This summer, I’ve strengthened my understanding of Twitter thanks to people like Robin Ware of The Ware Agency, who showed me how those in the faith-based community are using Twitter.
In 2011, I’ve been sending more direct messages and engaging in exchanges with followers.
After a project earlier this year where I tracked Brian Stelter’s tweets in the aftermath of the Joplin tornado, I learned how a very busy media reporter for The New York Times takes the time to respond to Tweets.
This week we’re going to another level with Twitter as my University of Alabama students in a short summer course on Race, Gender and Media class are forming a network on Twitter to engage in the Twitterverse.
I suggested that we all follow each other. (No, that’s now why I’m at 500 followers.) To date, I can only count two of my 500 followers from this particular class exercise.
We’re hoping that in addition to extending class discussion, we can engage some of those who have created the documentaries and news products we’re screening in the class.
I just learned today that there’s some interest in a research project I’m doing to look at how we as mass media researchers MEASURE our tweets.
An abstract on that topic has been accepted for presentation at an academic conference in October.
I’ll be re-linking with my colleague, Natalie Brown, to look at one of those measures.
So, 500 Followers– just an indication of what is to come for me in this medium.
Reading the New York Times’ Brian Stelter’s tweets from Joplin, Missouri helps one really see how this social media outlet can give reporters a very useful outlet for breaking news.
As one who is pretty immersed in and enamored with how Twitter is used by journalists, I was especially intrigued by the New York Times’ Brian Stelter’s retrospective last week on his experience covering the aftermath of the Joplin tornado.
“My best reporting was on Twitter,” Stelter said. “But only up until a certain point on Monday.”
When I saw this, I thought – WELL, the only way to really judge what’s better and what’s best is to look at the tweets themselves.
While Stelter provided an archive of his own tweets, they don’t tell the full story of this reporter who actually was tweeting on the Joplin, Tornado many hours before he arrived in Joplin.
Also, to truly understand the chronological context for the tweets, one has to see the time stamp. After a few days, the time stamp is only visible with a mouseover in Twitter.
One of my colleagues here at the University of Alabama, Natalie Brown, has become an expert at analyzing tweets. She and I have an ongoing research project that involves looking back at tweets over a series of months.
I thought perhaps reading through Brian Stelter’s 140-character missives for just a day would help me become at least half as adept at analyzing tweets as Brown.
Here’s what I learned from analyzing Brian Stelter’s Tweets
Total Number of Tweets from Joplin: 97 (if you include just the ones that Stelter initiated)
Total Number of Exchanges While in Joplin with Readers: 3
GRAND Total of Tweets: 100
The hour of the day when Brian tweeted the most: 5 p.m. hour on Tuesday, May 23.
Overnight Tweets Help
While Brian seems to think that after 11 p.m., his best work was what he was filing to the New York Times Web site or preparing for A1 in next day’s edition, I think there was tremendous value in the tweets that came overnight.
Certainly, the opportunity for great photos diminishes in darkness and there aren’t as many great stories in those less-active hours of the day.
The late night hours were when Stelter had his most interesting exchanges with Twitter followers.
Two readers challenged him on his statements about his work on the stories for the NYTimes.com site and his naming of a particular auto company in his tweets.
This is not unlike other media outlets that operate around the clock.
Full disclosure: I used to produce morning newscasts in a Top Ten media market and am very familiar with the viewers/audience members who are still up in the wee hours of the morning who will call to engage you on your news product both online and on the air.
Now, with Twitter, our audience engages with us more easily all day– 24/7.
Stelter Struck a Balance
The lack of a stable Internet connection (as we had here in Tuscaloosa in the first few hours after the April 27th tornado) forced Stelter to do storytelling on his iPhone– a mobile reporting device with which more and more of our journalism students are bringing to class.
He established a balance between telling what he’s seeing and SHOWING what he’s seeing.
He gave Twitter followers a glimpse of the sausage-making (as we like to call) that happens as we as journalists GATHER the news.
Sometimes making the reporting process visible as it’s happening is warranted and I would argue, even preferred.
We didn’t see was a lot of promotion of updates on the NYTimes.com Web site. (I fear that if there were a stable connection, we might have seen more of that self-promotion and less gathering and writing.)
It’s natural for us to use Twitter to share what we’ve posted online (I do it several times a day). But, what we saw in these tweets was the value of the tweets as reporting product themselves.
Last, but not least, Stelter did not invest a lot of time in Re-tweeting what other folks were doing in the field. He was too busy gathering information and getting it out.
I DO Agree with Stelter that it would be best if there were a “Get Me Rewrite” kind of person like I’m told newspapers had years ago when reporters would phone in their stories.
The harsh reality
Most reporters have not figured out the balance between tweeting what you’re reporting and working on the writing of the core reporting product- a TV story, a story for the web or for the next day’s newspaper.
We want to bring our Twitter followers with us through the process, but we haven’t quite figured out how to do that.
OUR NEXT STEP: Compare some of tweets of others covering the Joplin Tornado to Stelter’s to see how their observations differed. And for the academic researchers reading this post– that’s an opportunity for scholarly inquiry here when one compares the tweets to what’s ending up in the newspaper or on the next newscast.
Thanks to Brian’s hard work, we’re a little bit closer to understanding what to do in efforts to understand the link between Twitter and journalism.