More on today’s newspaper Twitter fail

I threw out a tweet today criticizing this Twitter post from one of my former employers:



What this tweet did for me was remind me that there was a State of the State speech, and I was interested in what the governor had to say (I’m originally from Wyoming, hence the reason for the interest). Unfortunately, it’s clear from this tweet that I’m not going to get anything about it on the website. And sure enough, as of 9 p.m., nary a word on the site about it.

But guess who did have a story? (no byline). And the Casper Star-Tribune (but only an AP version). And Jackson Hole Radio. And KOWB in my hometown of Laramie (shout out!).

I understand why this story isn’t online. Going back to six years ago when I worked there, print was very much king because it actually made money. Online didn’t, and thusly the philosophy was “don’t give the news away.” I actually LOVE that philosophy, because really, somebody has to pay to keep real news afloat. Journalists gotta eat, yo.

I would rather, however, that the WTE not use a medium that is only going to infuriate me because I don’t have access to their product. If I want that story, I have to get a copy of the print edition. No option for an online story, even one that might get me to watch an ad or pull out a debit card.

If you’re going to use social media to promote or share content, don’t be such a tease about it.


My social media presentation for the spring reporting class

I’m giving a lecture on social media to the reporting class on Thursday. Here is a copy of the PowerPoint I put together for it:

@FakeAPStylebook offers good lessons for journalists

I’m going to go out on a limb here and hypothesize that just about every copy editor in the world has now heard about @FakeAPStylebook on Twitter.

If you haven’t, you really should take a moment to check it out. Like any copy editor worth hers or his salt, @FakeAPStylebook is snarky, funny and doesn’t take itself too seriously.

But wrapped up within the 140-character-or-less zingers are good lessons for journalists, especially young reporters. Things like:

“Expat” is jargon and should not be used unless specifically referring to people no longer named Pat.

If spelling out an acronym such as WTF or FUBAR, be sensitive to readers who dislike cursing by writing “fuck” in a whisper.

I recently put together my own batch of @FakeAPStylebook to use in the classroom, and I thought I’d share them here as well. Enjoy:

Washington Post tries to force divorce with Twitter, social media

Those of us who believe in the social media revolution have been crying foul all day long about this Washington Post ombud blog that basically forbids its member journalists from posting any type of opinion. I suppose under this policy, a tweet that reads “I am having a sandwhich” may actually be OK. That is, until the salad makers of America read it and get upset that a WashPo reporter would dare pick a sandwhich over a salad.

There are so many things wrong with this new policy, I need a bullet list to sort them all:

  • As stated in the blog, the Post has been working on this new internal policy for a while. So far, the Post has yet to post (pun intended) this policy publically. If you have a link, please leave it in the comments. In fairness, it could just be that the ombud blog jumped the gun and the full policy will be posted soon. At least, I hope so.
  • The Post is making a firm statement about objectivity: That it will continue to be business as usual in terms of news coverage. For a newspaper that seemed to be at the forefront of pioneering new ways of delivering news, falling back into the objectivity rut is nothing but disappointment. Honorary Geek Jeremy Littau puts it so well: “Many, including myself, have come to see the objectivity norm in journalism to be an impossible standard and unproductive frame by which to judge news.”
  • Thirdly, doesn’t it feel a little bit like the WashPo is tucking tail rather than rising above partisan bickering? From the ombud column: “In today’s hyper-sensitive political environment, Narisetti’s tweets could be seen as one of The Post’s top editors taking sides on the question of whether a health-care reform plan must be budget neutral.” Translation: “We don’t want the partisans picking on us.”

Talk about gutless. Especially from a paper that, after decades of First Amendment battles inside and out of the Beltway, seems uncharacteristically caught up in not pissing anybody off.

Academics like Littau and Jay Rosen have already picked this bone clean in terms of what it means to transparency and taking advantage of new media. I’d like to hypothesize for a moment that this was a business decision, and a really bad one at that.

Before anyone could become a publisher with just an Internet connection and a few ideas, newspapers ruled the media in terms of its monopoly on the published word (note I didn’t say “printed.”) Because it was a mass medium serving an entire community, objectivity was adhered to so that the paper could serve all within the community. Ideally, that meant lots of money in ads and subscriptions.

Is that what the suits in the WashPo offices have going on here? Don’t make waves, ride on the Post’s longtime reputation and hope the world suddenly falls in love with newspapers again?

If that’s the case, the suits should try investing in asbestos, too.

C’mon, can the Post really believe that the old standard of objectivity is a good model for journalism in theory or in practice? We’ve seen circulation spiral, great newspapers go out of business and hundreds of thousands of us have lost our jobs. And we’re sticking to the same business model why?

Fox News makes no apologies for being the “conservatives’ network.” Fox News also stomps its competitors in the ratings. Now granted, they do that with a healthy dose of bullshit and paranoia (i.e. Glen Beck), but the basic premise of telling the news from a particular point of view has been a solid business model.

So what if we took the Fox News model, but did it better (and more ethically)? What if we engaged our audience with language they’re comfortable with instead of sticking to lifeless, bureacratic words that help us maintain this fraud of objectivity? What if we offered thoughtful viewpoints and analysis from all angles, so readers could actually feel like we reported and they decided?

Here’s my full disclosure on this social media topic: I’m a huge fan of social media and of finding new ways to engage readers and keep our livelihood going. Yes, I wish for the romanticized days of Woodward and Bernstein, when reading the newspaper was almost a civic duty. But those days are gone, and given the way young people don’t read newspapers these days, they ain’t coming back.

Some can look at that last graf and say I just ruined any hope of ever working for the Post. Or you can get an idea of what my values are as a person, then make a decision for yourself whether or not I’m capable of being fair on a particular topic.

So, you tell me: How did I do here? Am I fair in my criticism, or should I take a flying leap?

Memo to journalists: Don’t steal stuff off the Internet

Just because something’s on the Internet doesn’t mean it’s free. I tell students this all the time, but the story of a man who posted a photo to Twitter, only to have it used by Sky News, is a good cautionary tale for journalists.

You can read the whole sad tale here courtesy of OJB, but the summary is as follows: Joe Neale had taken a picture of a shooting at Waterloo Station, and posted it on his Twitter account using Twitpic. SkyNews grabbed the pic to use on their Web site, which violates the Twitpic terms of service, which of course means that Mr. Neale is entitled to payment for the use of his picture (and possibly legal recourse if he isn’t paid — or, for that matter, even if he is, because they took it without permission).

The ironic part, of course, is that Rupert Murdoch owns Sky News. Remember how he recently announced he wants all his media properties to start charging for content? Here’s Mr. Neale’s take on this, via the aforementioned OJB:

“I think this story is interesting because it points to the dangers of social media for the citizen journalist. I’m pleased that my picture has achieved good reach but I worry that the cooption of apparently free content from twitter by big media is something that may become endemic and devalue the rights in photography. Rupert Murdoch has announced people will have to pay to access his sites from 2010, meantime he doesn’t seem to mind not paying for material and happily infringes on other people’s work.”

Mr. Neale got paid partly because he started a successful hashtag (hashmob?) to take up his case, using #skypic as a rallying point. Which wraps the whole thing up rather neatly.

But the take-away point for journalists is twofold: don’t assume content posted online is free for you to take; and get permission from users before you steal their stuff. Seems like common sense, but we know common sense ain’t that common.

(Cross-posted from my blog)

VIDEO PICK: Social media is bigger than you think.

Just picked up this article at Mashable and watched the accompanying video. Erik Qualman, author of Socialnomics, breaks down the impact we’re seeing from social media so well in this video. Take special heed to his assertion that social media is not some fly-by-night fad — it’s a “fundamental shift in communication.”

I couldn’t agree more. Enjoy:

I found my true Twitter love:

Oh, Co-Tweet, where have you been all my life?

I’ve been experimenting with Twitter apps for the last several weeks in the hopes of finding one that would help me manage numerous accounts. Here’s what I need in a Twitter client:

  • The ability to manage four different accounts: my personal account, @CoMissourian, @CoMissourianNow (our live event account) and @GeekyJournalist.
  • The ability to keep an eye on various hashtags I find useful for mining news tips and seeing what topics are on people’s minds: #CoMo, #Mo, and #mizzou.
  • A way to better manage the @CoMissourian account. Right now, Nate Birt and I do most of the tweeting, and he’s leaving for a new job soon.

I’ve been through a ton of apps, including twhirl, TweetDeck, Splitweet and Nambu. All have great qualities, but none are the total package that Co-Tweet is.

Accounts are easy to add and manage in this Web-based application. You can toggle back and forth between accounts with a single click and easily filter feeds from a single account or multiple accounts. Cue screenshot:

Screen shot of my Co-Tweet account. The navigation makes it easy to toggle between accounts and sort tweets as you see fit

Screen shot of my Co-Tweet account. The navigation makes it easy to toggle between accounts and sort tweets as you see fit

Co-Tweet also gives me the ability to keep an eye on those hashtags that we find so helpful for news tips and community conversation. All you do is use the search function — you can keep a search open indefinitely, or by clicking on the “subscribe” option, you can set yourself up with an RSS feed of your favorite tag.

Tags I like to keep an eye on (and yes, that includes my own name. I ego-surf. Sue me)

Tags I like to keep an eye on (and yes, that includes my own name. I ego-surf. Sue me)

So far, so good, but really, nothing you couldn’t already get from the aformentioned Twitter clients. So let’s talk about what makes Co-Tweet unique.

Check out the handy managment tools

Check out the handy managment tools

For starters, you can designate users as on duty or off duty, thereby making someone responsible for feeding the account at any given time. As you can also see from the screen grab, you can send private notes to other users with instructions on how you’d like them to follow up with a received tweet. If I assign a task to someone, on duty or not, they’ll get an e-mail reminder that there’s a task waiting for them.

Here are a few other awesome features I love:

  • Co-Tweet also offers full integration, so it’s easy to not only shorten URLs, but you can still sign into to see how many clicks your tweets are receiving.
  • There’s an e-mail function built right in. If you want to reply to a tweet privately and with more than 140 characters, one click sets you up with an e-mail that even quotes the tweet that prompted the response in the first place.
  • Profiles can be looked up within Co-Tweet. It also allows you to see past conversations you’ve had with a person and sort their latest updates.
  • Co-tagging is especially helpful for those accounts used by multiple users. By using a “carrot tag” (^JS) readers can easily look up who within the organization is tweeting. Jen Reeves over at KOMU is making good use of this already.

I love me some Co-Tweet. I’m sure you will too.