hashtags help me highlight

Twitter, it makes me a better writer without even realizing it.  In 140 characters, you have no choice but to be concise. Twitter has taught me to highlight the most important parts and use those in my writing to remind me the best parts in an event. Jean Tenore made a point of h0w twitter has created better writing in journalism. Dean Baquet had said that he could see that the world of journalism was changing and that through media it would change, it seems that social media has changed journalism but it could actually improve it.

Tenore said Twitter had made her writing better when she can “capture the reaction,” it helps make writing interesting. Capturing the moment to me, is one of the hardest thing a journalist can do. It keeps readers interested and can make people feel a certain way about something. Twitter makes it easier to see what people want, what they want to read about and the more other writers “tweet,” something the more you can realize what they might see as important or what they see as a highlight.

This concept relates to Buttry’s initial reasoning when he wrote 10 ways Twitter makes a better writer. It can distribute content quickly, and can show other journalist what they see as a highlight. It helps me to know what everyone else sees as an important quote or moment.

From Chirping to Tweeting

I noticed something as I began writing this post.  Pre-Twitter days, the world always said that birds chirp.  Not tweet.   Just a little food for thought.

Just like Mallary Tenore said in her article, I thought Twitter was something that I’d never get into or ever use.  That was true for the first couple years of existence.  The reason I ever got a Twitter account in the first place was because my mom had one and she kept sharing with me funny things that celebrities were saying.  To me, it was a really cool idea to be able to be connected to your favorite celebrities in a medium that they could share their thoughts at a distance and you could be close to them without hiding in a tree outside of their window.

Twitter's World

 

Twitter has evolved into a journalistic revolution.  It brought a whole new meaning to breaking news.  It’s completely different now.  Steve Buttry outlines Twitter’s effect on breaking news in his article.  In the article he says, “When public news breaks in your community, whether that news is a plane crash, terrorist attack, earthquake, flood, mass murder or snowstorm, people who have seen and experienced the news event tweet about it.”  That is completely true.  When things like that happen, your Twitter feed is full of people’s opinions and coverage of the event and this can give you a feel of how people are reacting.  Twitter makes everything quick.  News flies into the world at the length of 140 characters at an insane rate of speed and shared at that same speed all over the world.

My experience with Twitter has been full of reporters live-tweeting an event.  I’ve seen people argue with each other with 140 character or less insults.  I’ve seen floods of breaking news come from every source in the world all at the same time clogging up my feed.  With Twitter, a current aspiring journalist has seen the craft of journalism transform into this high-paced attack of news.

A little birdy told me…

Image

 

In all honesty, I made a Twitter because I needed it for this class and that’s all I use it for—right now at least. So, if you are wondering where I am on this whole thing… I’m still working on it. I thought I would be more into it by now but I still have no desire to actually tweet because I felt like tweeting. 

But I have to admit, the articles from both Steve Buttry and Mallory Tenore both pose good arguments on why as a journalist, I should continue to get involved in the Twitter world. For starters it’s given me a new perspective about why having a social media/web presence is important and will only become more important, not just as a journalist (although especially as one) but for my family business and other things people might get involved in like foundations, support groups and so on.

I found it most relatable when Tenore talked about Twitter giving her confidence as a writer. I had a pat-on-the-back experience with Twitter recently when a couple of my tweets got “favorited.” I thought that was so cool that people I didn’t know and who have a large following could find my tweets and favorite them. So things like that give a new Tweeter motivation to keep tweeting.

It’s also more personable to be able to follow people you look up to and watch on TV like Stephen A. Smith or other great personalities. Who knows, maybe you’ll create a friendship you never expected. Twitter gives Journalists a chance to virtually network— which Journalism is all about networking. 

As I continue to pursue the Twitter world, I hope to gain story ideas and to continue the conversation like Buttry mentioned in his article. I find these perspectives quite fascinating. 

 

 

Coming from a Twitter amateur

twitter-amateur

Regrettably, I still haven’t gotten “into” Twitter, nor do I fully understand it. But maybe that’s because I’m not trying hard enough. Or maybe it’s because I’m more of a visual person. Pictures are what grab my attention, which is why I am quite the Instagram guru. The statement “pictures are worth a thousand words” cannot be truer. Perhaps I should be a photojournalist instead!

Don’t get me wrong; I like words. I just like the fact that when I scroll through my Instagram feed, there is a large photo first and then a caption underneath—which can be as long as you want it to be, by the way. But on Twitter, there are some abbreviated words and then a link that goes to a picture or an article or something that takes way too long to load on your phone. Although (if I am correct) pictures are now automatically shown? I’m probably sounding like a Twitter amateur, which I am.

When Twitter first came out, I really did not understand its purpose. To put it bluntly, I thought it was stupid. What’s the difference between a Facebook status and a tweet? And how boring would a social media site be with only Facebook statuses? I thought that Twitter would surely not gain popularity, but I have been proven wrong.

Even though I am not an active Twitter user, I do see the value in it. It simply is an effective means of communication. It provides fast and concise information. Eyewitnesses of events can be their own reporters. It links nations. Celebrities can interact with their fans. It’s a source of entertainment. It also gets people in trouble A LOT.

Am I becoming too wordy?

I see Mallary Tenore’s point where Twitter has forced her to be become a more “succinct” writer. I suppose I could use some Twitter treatment as well because I tend to include unnecessary adjectives or additions to my sentences that muddy what I am trying to say. From the Twitter exercises done in class, it was frustrating having a limited character amount. I felt as if it was limiting my creativity and expression. But it did force me to shave off the unnecessary parts of my tweets and only include the most important information. In the end, my tweets were more concise, which is important in today’s busy society.

Tenore also made an interesting point that she is able to gain confidence as a writer through Twitter. On Twitter, it is very clear if the public likes your work. If they do, they will retweet your articles or leave positive comments. It is a means of validating your work and measuring your success. It also tells you if you need to change or to continue with what you are doing.

I realize that there are many benefits to Twitter, so I will keep trying to become an active user!

140 Characters Or Less

I joined Twitter hesitantly at the beginning of last year. To be honest, the only reason I joined was because my friends said it would be fun and that I could really benefit from it being a journalist. I really didn’t buy it, but set up the account and started following friends, athletes and celebrities. I thought it was pretty cool at first, but didn’t use it as my primary source of social media.That all changed once I started getting more involved in my field.

Twitter has been an incredible help for me in getting news and sports updates as soon as they broke. When you have two sports talk shows during the week, you want the latest and greatest news to come out. With Twitter, I’m really able to do just that. Twitter has gone a lot deeper that just getting sports updates, however.

Twitter has enabled me to become a better writer as a whole. When Mallery Tenore says it helped her shorten her wordy writing, she really hit the nail right on the head. I used to be a big fan of using long winded sentences and big adjectives to try and spice up my writing. Twitter has really reigned me in since I joined. Obviously, only having 140 characters limits you on what you are going to say. It also works on the clarity of your writing, as it forces you to write concisely in order to get your point across, all while it is still written well.

The one problem I have seen a good amount of times when it comes to Twitter is my lack of followers of meaning. Not that I don’t love my friends and other followers, but sometimes you just need that one follower who you are able to network with. One follower turns into two, two into four, and so on. When you get that one noteworthy follower, your options are almost limitless.

Seriously, how dumb could some people be?

Seriously, how dumb could some people be?

I do have to say, and Tenore may disagree with me, that I don’t like it when people use Twitter simply for fun. It’s not to say that I don’t enjoy reading a funny or amusing tweet, because I do. I just cannot stand when people aren’t able to write properly or do anything serious. When every tweet is about your boyfriend, beer or some bad music, I can’t really remain your follower. It’s just too tough to do.

There are some instances when Twitter is tough to use or downright annoying, it is simply to valuable of a tool not to have. I have tweeted about 2,000 times in a year when I thought using Twitter would be just a passing fad. I’m glad I’ve gotten into Twitter as much as I have.

The Disadvantages of Twitter

The Disadvantages of Twitter

My feelings on Twitter’s usefulness are similar to the ones put forth by Mallary Tenore in her piece, “6 ways Twitter has made me a better writer,” but I disagree with her in a few key areas.

I should say ahead of time that I’m not trying to nitpick or be negative for the sake of being negative. I actually agree with Tenore’s points for the most part. But I feel like Twitter’s benefits need to be taken with a grain of salt.

Twitter teaches you how to be succinct, but it also incentivizes tabloidy writing.

Like Tenore, I also have a tendency to be wordy. (My freshman English teacher would probably tell you the same thing.) And though, like Tenore, I’ve started writing more succinctly to fit Twitter’s character limit, I’ve also found myself writing as if I am crafting headlines for a tabloid.

There’s only so much information you can convey in 140 characters. Suppose the average English word is six characters, including the space. Then subtract the 20 or so characters for your average shortlink (they look like this: huff.to/1beEq0C) and that leaves you with space for about 20 words — in other words, enough for a shorter-than-average summary lede.

Actually, not even. Good tweeters rarely pack 140 characters into a tweet — on a Twitter feed, an 140-character tweet will look like block text, which discourages Twitter users from reading and clicking — so you really only have a space of 8-12 words to both capture the attention of your followers and to get your message across.

This creates a strong incentive for tweeters to emphasize the former — capturing attention — over the latter. When I go through my feed, instead of fulfilling my daily news diet, I’ll get tweets like these instead — “These celebrities claim they don’t diet or exercise” and “Here are 26 innocent things that will make you feel filthy” — from outlets like Huffington Post and Buzzfeed, respectively,

This style of tweet is also known as “clickbait” — working off the idea that Kim Kardashian tweets get more clicks than ones sharing intellectual content — and granted, I’ve chosen two extreme examples of it. Most news outlets, I’ve found, strike a more even balance between capturing attention and proliferating news and content. One of my favorite financial news sources, Quartz, does a really good job of using its content to grab attention:

This tweet is an accurate representation of the article itself — the first eight words correspond with the first half of the article and the second four with the rest. It takes a subject matter that isn’t necessarily interesting, Greek bureaucracy and economic instability, and puts it in a context that would appeal to a wide range of readers. (Hey, I think it’s cool that I could conceivably afford an island in Greece.) And it does it without resorting to questionable appeals used by HuffPo and Buzzfeed.

Some of my favorite tweeters:

I’ve found that the best way to get better at Tweeting is to follow the best tweeters. Personally, I think outlets like Quartz, the Daily Beast, and the Washington Post are very social media-savvy, as are bloggers and writers such as Politico’s Ben White, WashPo’s Max Fisher, and the New York Times’ (and Penn State alum) Daniel Victor.

It’s also worth noting that the best news media tweeters aren’t necessary journalists. I’m a foreign policy and economics nerd, and two of my favorite feeds to follow are those of Daniel Drezner, a professor, and Justin Wolfers, an economist. They often share articles that they find interesting — and they’re not always foreign policy and economics-related articles. (Drezner, for instance, is a die-hard Red Sox fan so I had to endure his tweets during their run in the World Series.) They also contribute their own expertise to the Twitter-sphere — on the last U.S. GDP report, for instance, I was getting first-person commentary from an expert, Wolfers, instead of second-hand accounts from a news media outlet.

Also important: all five of the people I’ve mentioned — White, Fisher, Victor, Drezner, and Wolfers — all include a degree of levity to their feeds. In other words, they have a good personality on Twitter. Sure, I want news and information from them, but Twitter is still a social media site and I want to be able to laugh from time to time when checking their tweets. And I’m more likely to read something written by someone that I like.

Alright, this post is getting pretty wordy, so I’ll just leave it here.

Injured Syrians Treated in Israel? A Journey to Un-fool Myself

Coming from a country where Twitter has been blocked since its rollout, I must admit that I have missed an ocean of opportunities to hook up with the trending global networks.

My romance with journalism starts with a curious mind. Dubbed as a “walking encyclopedia” in elementary school, I have always been inquisitive to know more about the surroundings. However, the moment of truth has just came that I realized that my solicitous character has largely been squandered. Western social media was like a karate chop on me that revolutionized my old-school thinking about learning. Because this epiphany came so late in my life, I was playing like a fool last week when a news tip came on my Twitter page.

It all started with this feed.

As a Twitter starter, I have not developed an infatuation in reading the feed, but this one surely got me.

To understand this tweet, one does not have to possess professional knowledge on the Middle Eastern shadow diplomacy. With civil war in Syria raging its sledgehammer the third year now, its citizen has eaten the gall of bitterness when international humanitarian aids appeared to be operating in vacuum. To quickly recap the history, the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad was a royal descendant of the historical Ba’ath party which has dominated the country for half a century. At least three massive wars have broken out between Syria and Israel since 1948, with the latest being the Yom Kippur War in 1973. Ever since the foundation of Israel as a state, Syria has been consistently taken a hawkish stance on its very existence. Because of the dire relationship between these two states, Israeli has launched numerous offensives on Syria during the past two years, notably Israeli jets attack on Syrian arms convoy, Israeli airstrike on Syrian chemical weapon research site and Israeli preemptive assault on Syrian missile stockpiles. In the aftermath of Aug. 21 chemical attack on Syrian civilians, Israeli supported a limited strike in Damascus to curb Assad’s CWMDs(Conventional Weapons of Mass Destruction.)

So, what does this tweet say about the recent update about Israeli-Syrian relationship? I was almost baffled by what this information entails. Israeli have been helping Syrian civilians in the civil war! My bewilderment may sounds hypocritical to some, but nobody should forget that the relationship between these two states went so bad that there still sits the Golan Heights DMZ as a military buffer straddling across their borders.

All I did that day was a simple reply to the tweeter.

It was too hollow a question that the poster did not care to reply.

Having read the tip sheet by Steve Buttry, the third tip called crowdsourcing struck my temple. Should I really count on what people are posting on Twitter, even if the poster belongs to a well-regarded org with many followers?

Today, I decided to untangle this tweet. I hopped on the Twitter search box and typed the keywords “syrians;israel;hospital”. The result astonished me. I have almost misread Israel in its positive effort in salvaging lives of its neighbor!

I found tweets like these, overflowing with loving kindness:

https://twitter.com/Love_4_Israel/status/399305991247777792

Wait a minute! Does that mean these stories are true that Syrians were indeed getting help in Israel? I’ve spotted a commonality among all these tweets–they were all posted by pro-Israeli groups. Couldn’t all these be an Israeli left-wing propaganda that screams harmonious coexistence of these two states? Why there is no tweet from Syrians? Twitter is officially banned in Syria, but uncanny people could always bypass the Internet blockade with proxy software. This train of thinking gives rise to another advice I learned from Daniel Victor–“In breaking news, I default to the assumption that everything I see is full of crap.” Doesn’t this sound familiar in this situation–Injured Syrians treated in Israel when two states are still in an official state of ceasefire at the Golan Heights.

All these being said, I know that this journey leads me to investigate more if time permits, following the footprint of the rumor-debunker Andy Carvin.

Thanks for reading, and I would love to hear your comments and feedback below.